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Context of 'February 17-18, 2008: Ailing British Mortgage Giant Is Nationalized'

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British Chancellor Alistair Darling is informed of “quite substantial problems” at the troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock. The notification comes from Sir Callum McCarthy, chairman of the Financial Services Authority. (Daily Telegraph 2/26/2008)

The British Treasury signs Ron Sandler, an experienced banker, to head ailing mortgage giant Northern Rock in the event of its nationalization, according to media reports. (Daily Telegraph 2/26/2008) Commercial companies are currently finalizing bids in an attempt to keep the bank private, but it will be nationalized the next month and Sandler will be appointed to run it. (BBC 8/5/2008)

British Chancellor Alistair Darling announces a plan to sell government-guaranteed bonds worth about £25 billion ($50 billion) to help the sale of stricken mortgage giant Northern Rock to a private investor. The proceeds from the sale of the bonds would be used to pay off emergency loans the bank has taken out from the Bank of England. The British treasury thinks the bonds would speed up a private sale of the troubled lender. Although Northern Rock shares rise by about 42 percent on the news, the bank will be nationalized the next month and the bonds will not be issued. (Daily Telegraph 2/26/2008; BBC 8/5/2008)

British Chancellor Alistair Darling rejects two bids to keep troubled lender Northern Rock in private hands and says the bank will be nationalized. Darling says that both bids would require a “very significant implicit subsidy” from the taxpayer, so the bank is to be placed into a “temporary period of public ownership.” Ron Sandler, a banking executive sounded out by the government in advance (see January 12, 2008), is placed in charge of the now state-owned bank. (Daily Telegraph 2/26/2008; BBC 8/5/2008) Shares in Northern Rock are suspended from trading the next day. Darling says the nationalized bank will operate “at arm’s length” from the government. Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the decision to nationalize is “the right move at the right time” and is one which “protects savers” and is in “the best interests of taxpayers.” Conservative Party shadow chancellor George Osborne tells MPs that Darling “is a dead man walking” and Conservative leader David Cameron demands Darling be fired over his handling of the nationalization. Sandler says it will take years for the bank to pay back its loans from the taxpayer, but declines to comment on potential job losses. (BBC 8/5/2008)


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