RBS unveils capital plan as writedown hits £6.1bn

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) today revealed that the value of its assets has fallen by £6.1 billion this year as it “regretfully” laid out plans to raise £19.7 billion to prop up its balance sheet.

Related article: Rescued RBS to pay millions in bonuses

RBS hopes to raise £15 billion through offering new ordinary shares to investors at 65.5p each, above today’s share price, which fell slightly to 64.8p.The offer is fully underwritten by the Government so, if investors choose not to buy stock, the Treasury will buy the shares, using taxpayers’ funds.

The lender, which raised £12 billion through a rights issue only four months ago, also said today that it will issue £5 billion in preference shares to the Government, which will buy the stock using taxpayers’ money.

Preference shares mean the Government must be repaid before the bank may pay dividends to shareholders.

RBS revealed this morning that it had written down the value of its assets by a further £206 million in the third quarter, adding to the £5.9 billion it declared in the first six months of 2008. The potential third-quarter writedown of £1.2 billion was reduced to £206 million by an accounting change.

Read moreRBS unveils capital plan as writedown hits £6.1bn

Rescued RBS to pay millions in bonuses

RBS ‘making monkeys’ out of the government, says Vince Cable


Royal Bank of Scotland. Photograph: Newscast

Royal Bank of Scotland, which is being bailed out with £20bn of taxpayers’ money, has signalled it is preparing to pay bonuses to thousands of staff despite government pledges to crack down on City pay.

The bank has set aside £1.79bn to cover “staff costs” – including discretionary bonuses – at its investment banking division for the first six months of the year alone. The same division caused a £5.9bn writedown that wiped out the bank’s profits for the same period.

The government had demanded that boardroom directors at RBS should not receive bonuses this year and the chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, is walking away without a pay-off. But below boardroom level, RBS and other groups are preparing to pay bonuses to investment bankers who continue to generate profits.

Read moreRescued RBS to pay millions in bonuses

House prices fall 14.6pc in a year

House prices have fallen for the twelfth month in a row and are now 14.6pc lower than last year, the latest figures from Nationwide show.

Houses for sale: house prices are falling by almost £80 a day, according to Nationwide
The average house price has dropped by £27,000 in the past year, says Nationwide Photo: PA

Prices fell 1.4pc in October and the average house has seen £27,000 wiped off its value in the past twelve months.

The number of completed housing sales has now fallen to its lowest level since the Nationwide series began in 1974, the building society added in its lastest House Price Survey, driving the decline in prices.

The crisis in the financial sector and the latest Government data suggesting a recession is imminent is likely to worsen the housing market slump and has “uncomfortable implications”, Nationwide said.

“A looming recession and continued financial market instability have uncomfortable implications for the housing and mortgage markets, and will undoubtedly affect the pace of recovery in house prices,” Fionnuala Earley, the Nationwide’s chief economist, said.

Read moreHouse prices fall 14.6pc in a year

London suffered its first October snowfall in 74 years as a winter chill set in across England

Snow covers parts of England as winter weather sets in


A blizzard hit Stevenage as temperatures fell across the country Photo: Gary Dowson

Thousands of homes in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire were left without power after the cold weather damaged high voltage cables.

Supplier EDF Energy said the bad weather has prevented engineers from fixing the problem.

Luton Airport was forced to divert a number of its flights on Tuesday evening while airport workers cleared snow from the runway.

Read moreLondon suffered its first October snowfall in 74 years as a winter chill set in across England

Europe on the brink of currency crisis meltdown

The crisis in Hungary recalls the heady days of the UK’s expulsion from the ERM.

The financial crisis spreading like wildfire across the former Soviet bloc threatens to set off a second and more dangerous banking crisis in Western Europe, tipping the whole Continent into a fully-fledged economic slump.

Currency pegs are being tested to destruction on the fringes of Europe’s monetary union in a traumatic upheaval that recalls the collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

“This is the biggest currency crisis the world has ever seen,” said Neil Mellor, a strategist at Bank of New York Mellon.

Experts fear the mayhem may soon trigger a chain reaction within the eurozone itself. The risk is a surge in capital flight from Austria – the country, as it happens, that set off the global banking collapse of May 1931 when Credit-Anstalt went down – and from a string of Club Med countries that rely on foreign funding to cover huge current account deficits.

The latest data from the Bank for International Settlements shows that Western European banks hold almost all the exposure to the emerging market bubble, now busting with spectacular effect.

They account for three-quarters of the total $4.7 trillion £2.96 trillion) in cross-border bank loans to Eastern Europe, Latin America and emerging Asia extended during the global credit boom – a sum that vastly exceeds the scale of both the US sub-prime and Alt-A debacles.

Read moreEurope on the brink of currency crisis meltdown

Police will use new device to take fingerprints in street

Civil rights campaigners say images must not be added to databases


Photograph: Roger Tooth

Every police force in the UK is to be equipped with mobile fingerprint scanners – handheld devices that allow police to carry out identity checks on people in the street.

The new technology, which ultimately may be able to receive pictures of suspects, is likely to be in widespread use within 18 months. Tens of thousands of sets – as compact as BlackBerry smartphones – are expected to be distributed.

The police claim the scheme, called Project Midas, will transform the speed of criminal investigations. A similar, heavier machine has been tested during limited trials with motorway patrols.

To address fears about mass surveillance and random searches, the police insist fingerprints taken by the scanners will not be stored or added to databases.

Liberty, the civil rights group, cautioned that the law required fingerprints taken in such circumstances to be deleted after use. Gareth Crossman, Liberty’s policy director, said: “Saving time with new technology could help police performance but officers must make absolutely certain that they take fingerprints only when they suspect an individual of an offence and can’t establish his identity.”

Read morePolice will use new device to take fingerprints in street

Wall Street halts futures trading amid panic

Stock markets across the world cracked yesterday, forcing Wall Street to suspend trading on a key futures contract to stem panic-selling while Moscow shut for business altogether.

Sharp losses in New York, London, Europe and the Far East raised the spectre that governments may be forced to impose emergency holidays to avert a meltdown across world stock markets.

Before Wall Street opened yesterday, American regulators suspended all trading of Dow Jones futures contracts, which had plunged. Such contracts allow traders to bet on the future direction of the Dow Jones index. The plunge had triggered an automatic circuit breaker, which halts trading to prevent a market sliding into freefall.

Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at New York University, said that his prediction earlier this week that markets would have to be shut down is already coming true.

He said: “This morning, even before the markets in the US opened, the S&P futures fell by more than their daily limit. What I said yesterday has already started.”

A forced closure of stock markets in America would respresent the first time that Washington would have shut Wall Street since the terrorist attacks of September 2001. It would also have echoes of the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt shut American banks during an enforced holiday.

Read moreWall Street halts futures trading amid panic

Banks exploit legal loophole to seize homes

Banks and credit card companies are exploiting obscure legal powers to seize the homes of thousands of people who cannot pay their credit card bills.

In some cases, people owing as little as £1,000 have been served with charging orders – the legal instrument enabling a creditor to order the sale of a property.

The practice has emerged days after Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the Treasury, called on banks to do more to allow people to keep their homes.

According to the Ministry of Justice, 97,026 charging orders were granted by courts in England and Wales last year, a tenfold increase since 2000.

They allow financial institutions to order the sale of a property to pay off unsecured debts on credit cards, personal loans, store cards and car finance. Some will have been used only to threaten the debtor, or to levy a surcharge on the mortgage to recoup the debts.

Nationwide, the building society, and Northern Rock, which was nationalised earlier this year, are among the most aggressive in using the court orders.

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US chiefs plan troop surge in Afghanistan

American military chiefs are to send up to 9,000 troops to Helmand next year, potentially sidelining the UK’s 5,000-strong force in the southern Afghanistan province. The first of three US brigade combat teams is expected to be operational by the spring. Their main base is under construction alongside the British headquarters at Camp Bastion.

The move comes amid US frustration that the British have insufficient soldiers and helicopters to maintain security and reconstruct Helmand, with the Taliban acting freely in large tracts of the province.

President George W Bush is expected to announce a surge of US troops into southern Afghanistan after next month’s White House election.

General David McKiernan, the US commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, has asked for at least four brigade combat teams for Afghanistan, but most will go into Helmand.

British sources said the revelation that the bulk of the troops were to be sent to Helmand made it doubtful the British could stay in charge.

There are also likely to be differences over tactics. US commanders are more inclined than the British to call in close air support, which heightens the risk of civilian deaths.

Read moreUS chiefs plan troop surge in Afghanistan

Top world military leaders meet in Lake Placid


U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and top military commanders from four nations – Britain, France, Germany and Italy – flew into the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear this weekend aboard the jumbo jet that is used as Air Force 2 when the vice president is aboard. The group of powerful military leaders met in Lake Placid to discuss mutual security issues, including Afghanistan. Photo: Larry Miller

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and military leaders from several countries discuss Afghanistan and other issues.

LAKE PLACID – Some of the most powerful military commanders in the world met in Lake Placid over the weekend.

Speculation was rife after a C-32, the military equivalent to a Boeing 757 airliner, touched down Friday at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.

The 155-foot-long jumbo jet, which is used as Air Force 2 when the vice president is aboard, was emblazoned with “United States of America” on the side and parked on the eastern edge of the airport.

“I was contacted by the Department of Defense approximately a month ago, and they indicated they had some foreign dignitaries that they wanted to bring in through the airport,” said Ross Dubarry, the airport’s manager.

Following the landing, a motorcade led by State Police rushed Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and top military commanders from four nations – Britain, France, Germany and Italy – to a resort in Lake Placid.

Read moreTop world military leaders meet in Lake Placid