There was a fresh round of HBOS bashing this week as Lloyds Banking Group revealed a £13.4bn hit due to bad loans – 80% from HBOS
Under former head of corporate banking Peter Cummings, HBOS bought into a string of construction and property groups including Crest Nicholson, Miller, Gladedale and Keepmoat.
Cummings is said to feel “extremely hurt” at being singled out for blame for the bank’s collapse. Wherever the responsibility lies, the following account of someone involved in HBOS’ acquisition of a stake in his firm shows the bank didn’t exactly dig into the financial detail before putting money on the table.
“HBOS seemed to be pretty free and easy with its risk taking. There were a lot of reports commissioned on our market to help HBOS make up its mind but I knew some of them were flawed.
“Also, they pretty much took the company’s word over its profit forecasts without ever really going into the detail. The shareholders weren’t arguing; they were getting a massive payout and thought it was too good to be true.” As indeed it was.
Elsewhere, the long-running soap opera that is Panceltica, the Qatar-based structural steel contractor, came to a bizarre ending when the group announced its main trading arm is going into liquidation.
It follows a tussle for control of the business involving the Qatari and Dubai shareholders and the rest of the board. Asked what the Middle Eastern shareholders’ plan was now and why they had let it happen, one source said: “That’s a good question.”
Meanwhile, Atkins issued a trading update that used the adjective du jour to describe the Middle East: “challenging”, but said bid activity was picking up. Don’t all pile in at once; remember HBOS.
Watch weekly Business Bites at www.building.co.uk/buildingtv