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FSA took on crucial role in B&B crisis

The FSA was forced to co-ordinate the rescue of Bradford & Bingley by its four biggest shareholders after private equity firm Texas Pacific Group withdrew from its £179m cash injection last week.

Legal & General, M&G Investment Managers, Standard Life Investments and Insight Investment, which together hold 13 per cent of B&B shares, will now back an enlarged £400m rights issue.

The same four firms funded last month’s £400m bid by Resolution boss Clive Cowdery to take a substantial share in the company.

TPG withdrew its funding, which would have seen it take a 23 per cent stake in B&B, after rating agency Moody’s downgraded B&B’s senior unsecured and long-term debt ratings from A3 to Baa1, the second downgrade in the past month. The new rights issue will have an unchanged subscription price of 55p. Original underwriters Citi and UBS will continue on the issue.

B&B’s extraordinary general meeting has been postponed but is expected to take place next week.

Executive chairman Rod Kent says: “We are disappointed that TPG intends to terminate its subscription agreement but I am pleased that Citi and UBS and our major shareholders continue to support our proposed capital issuance.”

Seven Investment Management director Justin Urquhart Stewart says: “It has become apparent that the FSA was cajoling the major shareholders to get the issue fixed last Thursday night.

“It is almost like the FSA is going back to the old role of the Bank of England by policing the behaviour and the funding of the banks and bringing back something not unlike the old lifeboat structure it previously operated.

“It is quite right that they were leant on to make sure the banking system retains its credibility and avoid another embarrassment. This is what should have happened with Northern Rock.”


The enforcers

There was some tough talking from FSA speakers at its recent enforcement conference on the theme of credible deterrence: changing behaviour through enforcement action.

Protein shake

Most equities do not look particularly attractive at present but there is still a great deal of money to be made out of investing in the international agricultural sector. I particularly recommend the Sarasin Agrisar fund.


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