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Rock and rolling right to the top

Interesting news this week has seen Northern Rock roll into second place in the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ preliminary results for the top 30 biggest lenders in 2006, in terms of gross mortgage lending.

The lender has seen rapid growth, knocking both Abbey National and Lloyds TSB further down the table. Whilst Northern Rock saw its market share grow from 8 per cent to 9.6 per cent, both Abbey and Lloyds TSB have seen their shares diminish.

Abbey is now in third place with a fall in market share from 10 per cent to 9.4 per cent. Lloyds TSB is positioned at fourth, with its market share decreasing from 9 per cent to 8 per cent.

Although the CML’s table has yet to be finalised with a number of lenders’ results missing, the preliminary results have some other interesting revelations.

It reveals the merger of Nationwide and Portman Building Societies – expected to go ahead in June – is unlikely to see the merged business become the second-biggest mortgage lender, as has been widely claimed. That is, unless both building societies have an amazingly great set of results this year.

Nationwide has seen its market share drop from 8 per cent to 6.5 per cent while Portman’s share was up from 1 per cent to 1.4 per cent.

But it seems that even the Rock fails to come close to challenging the almighty Halifax Bank of Scotland. The lender remains steadfast as the UK’s biggest lender with 21.3 per cent of the market – more than double that of Northern Rock.

Abbey managing director for intermediaries Ricky Okey tells Money Marketing that being the second biggest mortgage lender is very important for Abbey, but he says that he is not surprised to some extent that Northern Rock has overtaken it.

Okey says: “We have not been a player in some segments so we’ll be looking to change this. Northern Rock is present in a lot more areas so in that sense it has an edge.”

This comes as Abbey announces it is to enter the 100 per cent mortgage market from next Wednesday. The new deal has a maximum loan to value of £500,000 and requires no deposit.

Another unique selling point of the product is that it is opened to everyone – although it is particularly useful for first time buyers. Okey says it is products like this – in segments where it has not played in for a long time – where it will be able to regain its position as number two in the top 30 mortgage lenders.

Other news this week sees the Bank of England decide to hold interest rates at 5.5 per cent for this month, a move that was widely expected.

John Charcol senior technical director Ray Boulger says: “There is little doubt that the four interest rate rises in the last 10 months are now having the desired effect on the housing market. As we enter the warmer months of the year prices are certainly cooling off, but it remains to be seen whether we have reached the peak of this cycle.”

He adds: “The majority of economists are calling for a rise in July but if we need another increase it would be more logical for the MPC to wait until the next quarterly inflation report in August before making that decision.”


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