The deleveraging tsunami continues

Sir Fred Goodwin, CEO of RBS, was one of the poster boys of the new banking model. Along with his peer group, he preached the virtues of the ‘efficient balance sheet’. Equity was for wimps. The blog warned over a year ago that the ‘seeming genius’ in recent years of people such as Sir Fred ‘has been due to nothing more than the application of high leverage during the ‘up’ part of the business cycle. As and when we go into the ‘down’ cycle, leverage will exert its same impact on the downside.’

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This morning, Sir Fred is gone. So is Sir Tom McKillop as Chairman – a very talented and friendly man, but out of his depth when he moved from running AstraZeneca to chairing the ‘go-go’ bankers at RBS. Instead, Gordon Brown is now effectively the blog’s bank manager, as the UK government will end up owning 60% of RBS in exchange for a £20bn ($35bn) capital injection – twice its recent market capitalisation.

Financial markets currently seem to be discounting the end of the world. So it would be no great surprise if the recent panic was replaced by a more balanced outlook. But the unusual feature of this recession is that the banks have already gone bust, even before the ‘real economy’ has turned down. So unfortunately, as the blog warned early last month, this probably means that deleveraging still has a long way to run.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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One Response to The deleveraging tsunami continues

  1. Will Beacham 14 October, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    I wonder how these part-nationalised banks will now behave. If they are forced to be too cautious, it could stifle business expansion and investment in the chemical sector. What do you think?

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