The subprime mortgage market mess kicked off in the U.S. has claimed UK-based bank Northern Rock, which was nationalized over the weekend amid much shareholder angst. Northern Rock first ran aground last September, when it became subject to the sort of bank run that had plagued Countrywide Financial here in the States late last year. From the FT:
Alistair Darling on Sunday announced the first nationalisation of a sizeable British bank in a quarter of a century as he put Northern Rock into public ownership, infuriating shareholders and shocking the two private bidders hoping to take over the stricken mortgage lender. Visibly concerned to avoid queues forming outside branches on Monday, the chancellor and Ron Sandler, Northern Rock's new executive chairman, insisted it would be “business as usual�.
In a formal statement published at MarketWatch, Darling, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that "we do not believe that they [two private-party bids for the bank] deliver sufficient value for money for the taxpayer." Portfolio.com's Felix Salmon suggests that nationalization may be good or bad, depending on your lens:
There would be angry shareholders and laid-off workers whatever the outcome, but maybe it's worse if the new owner is the government. On the other hand, maybe it's better: since taxpayers were ultimately taking on the Rock's risk anyway, it's good that it's also going to receive the Rock's returns.