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Global Financial and Economic Crises

Global Economic Collapse in Britain

Project: Global Financial and Economic Crisis 2007-Present
Open-Content project managed by KJF, mtuck

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Northern Rock, a large British bank specializing in mortgages, issues an upbeat set of trading results, saying the outlook for its business is “very positive.” It reveals it has sold a record volume of mortgages in the first half of 2007, up 47 percent on the same period a year before. This gives it a 19 percent share of the new mortgage market, making it the market leader in Britain. It also announces a small increase in interim profits and pledges to increase dividends by 30 percent. However, it notes that “sharp increases” in borrowing rates in the money markets are likely to make life more difficult and that changes in “interest rate and credit risk environments” will influence the size of its annual profits. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, is first alerted to the problems at the troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008] In a phone call with officials at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Treasury, he is told about the potential impact of the global credit crunch on Northern Rock’s business. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Her Majesty’s Treasury, Financial Services Authority, Mervyn King, Northern Rock plc, Bank of England

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Matt Ridley, a former chairman of the troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock, asks Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King about possible support to help Northern Rock overcome a difficult period. In addition, Ridley starts to look for a buyer for the distressed bank. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008]

Entity Tags: Bank of England, Mervyn King, Matthew Ridley

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

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]

Entity Tags: Alistair Darling, Financial Services Authority, Callum McCarthy

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The rate at which British banks lend to each other—known as the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor)—rises to its highest level in almost nine years. The three-month loan rate hits 6.7975 percent, which is even higher than the Bank of England’s emergency lending rate of 6.75 percent. This suggests that banks are reluctant to lend money to each other because of the emerging credit crisis. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Category Tags: Other, Britain

Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King writes to the Treasury Select Committee about current problems on financial markets. He tells it that the Bank will be prepared to provide emergency loans to any commercial bank that runs into short-term difficulties, provided this is because of temporary market conditions. However, he appears to rule out following the lead of the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve in pumping huge sums into the banking system to ease problems with liquidity. [BBC, 9/13/2007; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Bank of England, Mervyn King

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

News of the financial difficulties of troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock breaks in the British media. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008] The BBC reports that Northern Rock’s situation is so bad that it has asked for and been granted emergency financial support from the Bank of England, in the latter’s role as lender of last resort. BBC business editor Robert Peston says Northern Rock is not in danger of going bust and there is no reason for its customers to panic. However, he adds that “the fact it has had to go cap in hand to the Bank is the most tangible sign that the crisis in financial markets is spilling over into businesses that touch most of our lives.” [BBC, 9/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Robert Peston, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Following a report that troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock has asked the Bank of England for emergency funding (see September 13, 2007), a run on the bank begins. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008] Northern Rock issues a statement confirming the emergency funding and blaming “extreme conditions” on financial markets. The Bank, the British Treasury, and the Financial Services Authority say they believe Northern Rock is solvent and that the standby funding facility will enable it to “fund its operations during the current period of turbulence in financial markets.” However, this does not reassure savers. The share price plunges 32 percent and depositors try to withdraw their savings. Queues form outside a number of branches, the bank’s website collapses, and its phone lines are jammed. Under current British legislation, savings are only protected up to £33,000 ($66,000). [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Her Majesty’s Treasury, Financial Services Authority, Northern Rock plc, Bank of England

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The Bank of England tries to find a buyer for the troubled British mortgage lender Northern Rock. It holds talks with Lloyds TSB, another large British bank, about possibly buying Northern Rock, but according to reports, by September 17 these discussions founder. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Alistair Darling, Lloyds TSB Group

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

British Chancellor Alistair Darling intervenes in the crisis surrounding the troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock. A run on the bank began three days ago (see September 14, 2007) and shows no sign of abating, as there are still queues outside a number of branches. Amid a further slide in the company’s share price and fears the run will undermine confidence in the whole banking system, Darling issues a statement saying the Treasury will guarantee all deposits held by Northern Rock. He says savers will not lose a penny and that his action is motivated by the “importance I place on maintaining a stable banking system.” The move appears to work and the queues outside branches will subside the next day. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Alistair Darling, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The Bank of England says it will inject £10 billion ($20 billion) into the money markets to try to bring down the cost of inter-bank lending. The move is prompted by the financial crisis, which has recently engulfed leading British bank Northern Rock. One week ago, Bank of England governor Mervyn King had said the Bank would not make such an injection (see September 12, 2007). [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008] “This represents a U-turn on support for money markets,” says Ian Kernohan, an analyst at Royal London Asset Management. He adds, “As every parent knows, it’s all very well to talk tough, but if you don’t follow up your credibility is damaged.” Calyon analyst Daragh Maher says: “Only one week ago, governor King was arguing against providing liquidity to money markets as this would risk causing greater problems further down the road. This strategy has come in for considerable criticism… [and the change announced today] will of course open it to further criticism that its earlier strategy was flawed and that this shift may be too little too late.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Ian Kernohan, Mervyn King, Bank of England, Daragh Maher

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, Britain

Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King defends his handling of the banking crisis that has recently hit mortgage giant Northern Rock to members of parliament. Facing accusations of “being asleep at the wheel,” King says it would have been “irresponsible” to have intervened earlier to save Northern Rock. He also says that he would have liked to have offered financial support to the company in secret but that British and European regulations made this impossible. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Bank of England, Northern Rock plc, Mervyn King

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock announces that it is canceling the dividend that it was due to pay shareholders in October. The dividend would have cost the bank £59 million ($118 million). In addition, the bank says that it is in preliminary talks with people who want to buy all or part of its business. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

British Chancellor Alistair Darling announces that the government’s scheme to protect savers with money deposited in British banks and building societies is being expanded to guarantee 100 percent of the first £35,000 ($70,000) of savings. Previously, a slightly lesser percentage of the first £33,000 a saver had on deposit was guaranteed. Darling adds that this is the first stage of a wider reform of the compensation system. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Alistair Darling, Her Majesty’s Treasury

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, Britain

The chief executive of the British Financial Services Authority, Hector Sants, tells a hearing of the Treasury Select Committee that the regulator did not expect distressed bank Northern Rock to run into trouble. He tells MPs, “In terms of the probability of this organization getting into difficulty, we had it as a low probability.” He also admits that there are “lessons to be learned” from the failed regulation of Northern Rock. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Hector Sants, Financial Services Authority

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The British Treasury agrees to protect 100 percent of new savings deposited with distressed mortgage giant Northern Rock after September 19. The Treasury had issued a similar guarantee three weeks ago (see September 17, 2007), but that had only covered deposits made up to September 19. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Her Majesty’s Treasury

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock announces that its chief executive, Adam Applegarth, has resigned. It originally says he will step down from his post after completing a review of the bank’s operations no later than the end of January 2008. However, he will actually leave early, in the middle of December. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Adam Applegarth

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Troubled British mortgage lender Northern Rock names a consortium headed by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group as the preferred bidder to purchase it. The bank is up for sale because it has been hit hard by the credit crisis and requires new funding. The Virgin offer includes the immediate repayment of £11 billion ($22 billion) of the £25bn ($50 billion) Northern Rock has borrowed from the Bank of England to help it through the crisis. The remainder is to be paid over the next three years. RAB Capital, which is the second-largest shareholder in Northern Rock with a stake of about 6.7 percent, says it will oppose the move from Virgin. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, RAB Capital plc, Virgin Group Ltd

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The Olivant group unveils its rescue proposal for the troubled British lender Northern Rock, which is up for sale because of problems it has encountered during the credit crisis. Olivant is led by Luqman Arnold, formerly head of British Abbey bank. The company says it could immediately repay up to £15 billion ($30 billion) of government money that Northern Rock has borrowed to help it through the crisis. However, Olivant will later complain about the negotiating process and will not submit a final bid. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Luqman Arnold, Northern Rock plc, Olivant Ltd

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Distressed British mortgage giant Northern Rock is dropped from the FTSE 100 index of leading London-listed blue chip shares. The move comes as part of the biggest shake-up of the index since the crash of 2001, when the “dotcom” investment bubble burst. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

SRM Global, a hedge fund that controls 9.9 percent of shares in ailing British bank Northern Rock, warns Chancellor Alistair Darling not to consider nationalizing the bank for less than a fair price. In a letter sent shortly before Christmas, SRM says it has been advised that otherwise there would be a breach of the Human Rights Act and it would have a strong case to pursue ministers through the courts. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: SRM Global, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Alistair Darling, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

British Chancellor Alistair Darling tells the Financial Times that he is planning to give the Financial Services Authority (FSA) more power to deal with failing banks to avoid another crisis like the one that has engulfed Northern Rock (see September 14, 2007). He proposes giving the FSA the power to seize and protect customers’ cash if a bank gets into difficulties. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Alistair Darling, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Financial Services Authority

Category Tags: Other, Britain

Troubled British mortgage giant Northern Rock agrees to sell £2.2 billion (about $4.4 billion) of its mortgage assets to US investment bank JP Morgan. The assets represent about 2 percent of its mortgage portfolio and the price represents a 2.25 percent premium on the assets’ value. Northern Rock says it will use the funds to pay back some of the £25 billion ($50 billion) in emergency loans it has been given by the Bank of England to help it through the financial crisis. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: JP Morgan Chase, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

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]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Ron Sandler

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

At a meeting with management, the largest two shareholders in the troubled British mortgage lender Northern Rock—hedge funds RAB Capital and SRM Global—put forward a proposal that will stop the bank’s management negotiating its sale without consent from its shareholders. The bank needs to be sold to a new owner because of problems it has encountered during the credit crisis, and both major shareholders are worried they will not get much for their holdings (see November 26, 2007 and Shortly Before December 25, 2007). However, the bank’s management argues that the proposal should be rejected, as it would make a sale harder, and the other shareholders follow their lead, opening the way for the bank to be sold. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: SRM Global, RAB Capital plc, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirms that talks are taking place to secure a private sale of ailing mortgage bank Northern Rock. However, he also says he has not ruled out the possibility of nationalizing the bank. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Gordon Brown

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

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]

Entity Tags: Alistair Darling, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The House of Commons’ Treasury Select Committee says that Britain’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) was guilty of a “systematic failure of duty” over the crisis at stricken mortgage giant Northern Rock. MPs say the financial watchdog should have spotted the bank’s “reckless” business plan. In addition, they call for the Bank of England to appoint a head of financial stability. The FSA says it has already admitted failings in relation to Northern Rock and insists it is “addressing” them. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Financial Services Authority, Treasury Select Committee, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group submits a bid to take over the ailing British mortgage giant Northern Rock. Another bid is submitted by the bank’s own board of directors. These are the only two bids submitted by the deadline, as all the other potential buyers have already dropped out. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008] Under the terms of its rescue plan, Virgin would inject £1.25 billion (about $2.5 billion) into the bank and take a stake of 55 percent in it. The bank would be rebranded as Virgin Money. Northern Rock’s managers say their proposal—which gained shareholder backing—includes raising at least £500 million (about $1 billion), reducing the assets on the bank’s balance sheet, and reorganizing its operations. The managers criticize Virgin’s bid over the job cuts it entails, although Virgin says they are needed in order to rapidly repay the government money propping the bank up. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Virgin Group Ltd

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The British Office for National Statistics decides that £100 billion (about $200 billion) of debt owed by ailing mortgage giant Northern Rock will appear on government accounts, because of the government’s bailout of the bank. The move means the government may be at risk of breaking its rule to keep net debt below 40 percent of national income. The office stresses that the statistical change to public status should not be confused with nationalization, although the bank will actually be nationalized within days. [Daily Telegraph, 2/26/2008; BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Office for National Statistics, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The British Treasury says that it does not like either of two bids recently submitted for stricken lender Northern Rock (see February 4, 2008). The bank is being propped up by government loans and could be sold to a private buyer so that the government can get its money back. However, the Treasury is not satisfied with the bids and sees nationalization as a better outcome for the taxpayer. One of the consortia, led by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is told that it is the front-runner to take control of the bank. The Treasury urges both Virgin and its rival bidder to offer more. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Virgin Group Ltd, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

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]

Entity Tags: George Osborne, David Cameron, Ron Sandler, Her Majesty’s Treasury, Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Failing Companies, Northern Rock, Britain

Recently nationalized British bank Northern Rock says it will cut about 2,000 jobs and reduce its residential mortgage lending by half. The job cuts, which account for about a third of its staff, will be made by 2011 under plans to turn around the ailing bank’s fortunes. The staff unions strongly protest the move. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The British Financial Services Authority (FSA) admits failures in its supervision of recently nationalized mortgage giant Northern Rock. The FSA admits it is guilty of “a lack of adequate oversight and review” of the troubled bank, adding that too few regulators were assigned to monitor it. However, the FSA argues it should continue to have responsibility for regulating the banking system and says it will overhaul its procedures as a result of the weaknesses identified. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Financial Services Authority

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The recently nationalized British bank Northern Rock publishes its results for 2007, showing a pre-tax loss of £167.6 million (about $335 million). The bank also says it will be “significantly loss-making” in 2008, but pledges to repay its £25 billion (about $50 billion) loan from the Bank of England by 2010. In addition, it reveals that former chief executive Adam Applegarth (see November 16, 2007) will get severance payments totaling £785,000 (about $1,570,000). [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Adam Applegarth

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The European Union (EU) says it will launch a full investigation into the British government’s nationalization and bailout of troubled mortgage lender Northern Rock. Under EU rules, public support can be allowed to stop firms from going bankrupt, but long-term government aid that is seen to undermine competition is not permitted. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: European Union, Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

Shareholders in the recently nationalized British bank Northern Rock launch a court challenge over compensation they are due to receive from the government. The UK Shareholders Association submits an application for a legal review into the terms of the bank’s nationalization. According to the association, about 7,000 shareholders back the action. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, UK Shareholders Association

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

State-owned British lender Northern Rock says that mortgages in arrears for at least three months have increased significantly over the last four months. On April 30 they accounted for 0.95 percent of its total lending, whereas on December 31 of the previous year they were only 0.57 percent of lending. The bank also says the British mortgage market remains “uncertain.” [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) predicts “a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyzes the major central banks.” RBS credit strategist Bob Janjuah says, “A very nasty period is soon to be upon us—be prepared.” Bolstering Janjuah’s dire predictions, the RBS bank research team warns that the Wall Street equities index, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as “all the chickens come home to roost” from what the Daily Telegraph describes as “the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets. Such a slide on world [markets] would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.” Janjuah also warned of the credit crisis in 2007. RBS predicts that Wall Street would rally a little in early July before quickly fizzling out. “Globalization was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous corner at some point. We have got to that point,” Janjuah says. RBS debt market chief Kit Jukes says Europe will not be immune from the problems: “Economic weakness is spreading and the latest data on consumer demand and confidence are dire.” [Daily Telegraph, 6/19/2008]

Entity Tags: Bob Janjuah, Royal Bank of Scotland, Kit Jukes

Category Tags: Britain, Commentaries on Economic Issues

The leading British bank Barclays announces that it will issue new shares worth £4.5bn (about $9bn) to bolster its finances, which have been hit by losses on US mortgage-backed securities. Much of the new money will come from Asian investors, led by the state-run Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). The Qataris will invest £1.7bn (about $3.4bn), taking a 7.7 percent stake. [BBC, 6/25/2008] The QIA’s holding company is chaired by Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister, who is to invest another £533m (about $1bn) privately through a company named Challenger. [Daily Telegraph, 6/27/2008] The Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui will invest £500m (about $1bn) and existing shareholders are also to buy more shares. The China Development Bank will buy another £136m (about $270m) of shares, and the Singaporean investment fund Temasek will buy another £200m (about $390m) of them. [BBC, 6/25/2008]

Entity Tags: Barclays Bank, Qatar Investment Authority, China Development Bank, Temasek Holdings, Sumitomo Mitsui, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Challenger

Category Tags: Western Purchases by Asians, Britain

Recently nationalized British bank Northern Rock announces that its chief executive, Andy Kuipers, will leave the bank at the end of August 2008. Kuipers is the final member of its original board to leave the bank after the crisis that led to its nationalization. Northern Rock appoints the vice chairman of Barclays Bank, Gary Hoffman, as its new chief executive. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc, Gary Hoffman, Andy Kuipers

Category Tags: Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

State-owned British bank Northern Rock announces bigger-than-expected losses of £585.4 million (about $1.170 billion) for the first six months of the year. Much of the loss comes from the charges it takes to cover losses from struggling mortgage borrowers. However, it also managed to repay £9.4 billion (about $18.8 billion) of the emergency loan it had accepted from the Bank of England, reducing the amount owed to £17.5 billion (about $35 billion). The British government announces it will inject £3 billion (about $6 billion) to help the bank. [BBC, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Northern Rock plc

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, Northern Rock, Britain, Failing Companies

The XL Leisure Group, the third largest package holiday company in Britain, collapses and goes into administration. The company attributes the failure to volatile jet fuel prices, which had increased by over US$80 million year-on-year, the economic downturn, and its inability to acquire new funding. The group had 21 aircraft and transported 2.3 million passengers in 2007. The failure leaves 1,700 staff looking for new jobs and around ninety thousand British tourists stranded abroad, only some of whom are insured for return flights. Two of the group’s subsidiaries, in France and Germany, are saved from collapse by a late sale to Straumur Investment Bank, which intends to keep them running. [BBC, 9/12/2008]

Entity Tags: Straumur Investment Bank, XL Leisure Group

Category Tags: Failing Companies, Britain

Following the seizure of two Icelandic banks by that country’s government (see October 7, 2008), the British government invokes anti-terrorism legislation to seize Icelandic assets in Britain. Iceland’s Prime Minister Geir Haarde criticizes Britain, saying he is upset and shocked that it has used “hostile” anti-terrorism legislation to freeze Icelandic banks’ assets. However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemns Iceland’s handling of the collapse of its banks and its failure to guarantee British savers’ deposits. He says Iceland’s policies are “effectively illegal” and “completely unacceptable.” Iceland will later threaten legal action against Britain. [BBC, 2/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Gordon Brown, Geir Haarde

Category Tags: Other, Britain, Iceland

The British retail chain Woolworths goes into administration with debts of £385m (about $580m). The administration was brought on by a cash crisis and a loss of backing by financial institutions that had lent it money, in particular Burdale and GMAC. It is the largest casualty of the global economic crisis in Britain so far, and its failure jeopardizes 30,000 jobs across the country. The British government had intervened to save the company, but only by encouraging last-minute talks between it and the lenders, which failed. No financial support from the taxpayer was offered. The administrator, the auditor Deloitte, appoints Hilco, a company specializing in reconstruction, to run the business. Hilco had been attempting to buy Woolworths before it went into administration. Deloitte says that stores will remain open during the Christmas period, and that it will attempt to find a new owner that can satisfy the company’s lenders. [Financial Times, 11/26/2008]

Entity Tags: GMAC, Deloitte, Hilco, Burdale, Woolworth Group PLC

Category Tags: Failing Companies, Britain

The British furniture retailer MFI goes into administration, as it is unable to pay rent on many its stores. This is because of falling sales of large items such as kitchens. The company has over 100 outlets throughout the country and has been in trouble for some months. Its failure jeopardizes thousands of jobs. [Daily Telegraph, 11/27/2008] The administrators are unable to find a buyer and the group’s stores close on December 19. Customers who have not yet received their furniture are told to apply to the administrator for a refund. The logistics company DHL, which had handled deliveries for MFI, says it will probably also lay off over 300 people as a result of the failure. [BBC, 12/19/2008]

Entity Tags: MFI Group Limited, DHL

Category Tags: Failing Companies, Britain

“The worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression is not a natural phenomenon but a man-made disaster in which we all played a part,” says Guardian City editor Julia Finch, who lists individuals who led the world into its current economic crisis (see June 2008). These individuals include:
bullet Alan Greenspan, US Federal Reserve chairman, 1987-2006: “[B]lamed for allowing the housing bubble to develop as a result of his low interest rates and lack of regulation in mortgage lending. Backed sub-prime lending; urged homebuyers to swap fixed-rate mortgages for variable rate deals, leaving borrowers unable to pay when interest rates rose. Defended the booming derivatives business, which barely existed when he took over the Fed, but which mushroomed from $100tn in 2002 to more than $500tn five years later.”
bullet Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England: “His ambition was that monetary policy decision-making should become ‘boring.’”
bullet Bill Clinton, former US president: “Beefed up the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act to force mortgage lenders to relax their rules to allow more socially disadvantaged borrowers to qualify for home loans. Repealed the 1999 Glass-Steagall Act, prompting the era of the superbank; the year before the repeal, sub-prime loans were just 5 percent of all mortgage lending. By the time the credit crunch blew up it was approaching 30 percent.” [Guardian, 1/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Mervyn King, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Alan Greenspan, The Guardian, Julia Finch

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Britain, USA, Pre-2001 Policies and Actions, Bush Policies and Actions

The European Commission announces that an index of euro-region executive and consumer sentiment has dropped to 65.4 from 67.2. This is a record low and is caused by the global economic crisis. Responding to this and other bad news Jacques Cailloux, chief euro area economist at Royal Bank of Scotland in London, says, “Today’s data has dashed any hope of a tentative stabilization” in the economy. He also predicts a change in policy by the European Central Bank (ECB): “Any sense that the ECB may pause after a March rate cut can be thrown out the window. They will go very low and they will have to start embarking on additional measures.” [Bloomberg, 2/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Royal Bank of Scotland, Jacques Cailloux

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Britain

European Union Leaders hold an emergency summit in Brussels, saying they are determined to avoid protectionist moves in response to the economic crisis that might cause a rift between nations in the East and West. The summit comes on the heels of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pledge to help his nation’s car industry, if jobs were safeguarded in France. Sarkozy’s pledge raised fears that national protectionism could scuttle hopes of a Eurozone recovery. Speaking after their meeting, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says, “There was consensus on the need to avoid any unilateral protectionist measures.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the newest EU member states that are former communist countries were not all in the same situation. Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the current EU president who also chairs the talks, condemns Sarkozy’s comments, saying: “We need a Europe without barriers but also a just and fair Europe. I think that it was perfectly clear that the European Union isn’t going to leave anybody in the lurch.” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown adds: “Today was the start of a European consensus on all these major issues that are facing the world community, including ‘no’ to protectionism. Bold global action, a global grand bargain, is not now just necessary, but it is vitally urgent.” President Sarkozy denies accusations of protectionism levied at his €6 billion (approximately $8 billion) bail-out plan to keep French carmakers manufacturing in France, but says that if the US defended its own industries, perhaps Europe should do the same. There is no announcement of a new EU aid package for the badly-hit economies of Central and Eastern Europe. The summit comes a week after the same EU leaders met to discuss reforming the EU’s financial system. Brown says the G20 talks next month represent an opportunity to agree on a new deal. “Only by working together will we deliver the EU and international recovery we need,” he says. This week, Brown will become the first European leader to hold talks with President Obama, who is also expected to visit Prague in April. [BBC, 3/1/2009]

Entity Tags: Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, European Parliament, Gordon Brown, Mirek Topolanek, Jose Manuel Barroso

Category Tags: Other, Britain

The jobless rate in Britain climbs to its highest level since 1995, according to the Office of National Statistics in London. The number of people out of work hits 2.47 million, while unemployment claims rise to 1.61 million for the month of July. Data recently released by the statistics office indicate that unemployment through July rose to 7.9 percent, the most since 1996, compared to the European Union’s latest figure of 9.5 percent, 9.7 percent in the US, and 5.7 percent in Japan. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King says that even after the economy stops shrinking, households will continue feeling the recession’s pain, since “unemployment is either going to continue rising or remain high.” As much as £175 billion ($288 billion) is being printed to aid economic growth and avoid deflation. “If anything, the UK economy is only just emerging from recession, and this is a lagging indicator,” says economist Philip Shaw of London’s Investec Securities. “We’re looking at unemployment peaking towards the middle of next year. Things are likely to improve at a slow rate, but it’s likely to remain uncomfortable for a long time.” Employment minister Jim Knight tells BBC News: “Unemployment still remains a real problem for families up and down the country. We’ve got to keep the support going and not be tempted to celebrate the recovery.” In speaking on the recovery, Prime Minister Gordon Brown—up for re-election in 2010—says the economic rebound “is still fragile” and stimulus programs that boost the economy should be maintained. “There are no signs of recovery here,” Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber says. “It might look rosier in city dealing rooms but, out in the real world, unemployment is the number one issue.” [Bloomberg, 9/16/2009]

Entity Tags: Investec Securities, Bank of England, Brendan Barber, European Union, Gordon Brown, United Kingdom, Office for National Statistics, Mervyn King, Jim Knight

Category Tags: Other, Britain

Group of 8 (G-8) leaders from across the globe release a statement from their meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, saying that economic recovery from the worst recession since World War II is too frail for them to consider repealing efforts to infuse money into the economy. US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, European Commission President Jose Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev assembled for the annual gathering where Obama pressed to maintain an open door for additional stimulus actions. A new drop in stocks generated global concern that, to date, the $2 trillion already sunk into economies had not provided the economic bump that would bring consumers and businesses back to life. “The G-8 needed to sound a second wakeup call for the world economy,” Brown told reporters after the gathering’s opening sessions. “There are warning signals about the world economy that we cannot ignore.” A G-8 statement embraces options ranging from a second US stimulus package—advocated by some lawmakers and economists—to an emphasis by Germany on shifting the focus to deficit reduction.
What Next? - Disagreements over what to do next, as well as calls from developing nations to do more to counteract the slump, emphasize that the Group of 8 has little if any room to maneuver, since the largest borrowing binge in 60 years has, so far, failed to stop rising unemployment and has left investors doubting the potency of the recovery. Even as G-8 leaders held their first meeting, the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) World Index of stocks continued a five-day slide, and the 23-nation index had dropped 8 percent since its three-month rally that ended on June 2. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) upgraded its 2010 growth forecast, saying the rebound would be “sluggish,” and urged governments to stay the course with economic stimuli. The IMF also said that emerging countries such as China would lead the way, with an expansion of 4.7 percent in 2010, up from their April prediction of 4 percent. “It’s a very volatile situation,” said European Commission President Barroso in a Bloomberg Television interview from L’Aquila. “We are not yet out of the crisis, but it seems now that the free fall is over.”
Exit Strategems Discussion - “Exit strategies will vary from country to country depending on domestic economic conditions and public finances,” the leaders conclude, but deputy US National Security Adviser Mike Froman tells reporters, “There is still uncertainty and risk in the system.” Froman says that although exit strategies should be drawn up, it’s not “time to put them into place.” The IMF forecasts that, in 2014, the debt of advanced economies will explode to at least 114 percent of US gross domestic product because of bank bailouts and recession-battling measures. German Chancellor Merkel, campaigning for re-election in September and the leading opponent of additional stimulus, warned against burgeoning budget deficits, which the IMF has predicted will rise to an average of 6 percent of the EU’s 2009 gross domestic product, from 2.3 percent in 2008. At last month’s European Union summit, Merkel pushed through a statement that called for “a reliable and credible exit strategy,” and insisted, “We have to get back on course with a sustainable budget, but with the emphasis on when the crisis is over.” [G8 Summit 2009, 7/2/2009; Bloomberg, 7/9/2009]

Entity Tags: Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) World Index, Mike Froman, Jose Manuel Barroso, International Monetary Fund, Taro Aso, National Security Council, Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, Standard & Poor’s, Stephen Harper, Dmitriy Medvedev

Category Tags: Britain, USA, Commentaries on Economic Issues

The tasks before the forthcoming Group of 20 (G-20) summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are rolled out in the media. The number one agenda item for global leaders will be restraining financial institutions’ compensation and forcing them to clean their balance sheets to avert a duplicate of the near-meltdown of global financial systems. They will also attempt to find new methods for controlling over-the-counter derivatives markets, which are said to have augmented the global crash. The leaders are also scheduled to “increase oversight of hedge funds, credit rating agencies, and debt securitization.” Most leaders agree that it is essential to find a resolution for the huge financial imbalances in trade, savings, and consumption, all of which played a role in the global financial crisis, and ultimately may leave global economies vulnerable to future financial shocks. Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, says that signs of economic recovery should not act as an excuse to avoid economic reforms. Officials of France and Germany are recommending stringent financial sector regulations, which incorporate limits on executive pay. The mandate of the G-20 is to “promote open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” The G-20 is comprised of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, which is represented by the rotating council presidency and the European Central Bank. [Reuters, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; Voice of America, 9/22/2009; G-20.org, 9/22/2009]

Category Tags: Other, USA, Britain, Other Nations

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