TREASURY IN TALKS OVER METRO BANK’S WOES – Lender’s shares plummet as it scrambles to raise up to £600m to shore up its balance sheet
Treasury officials were last night in talks with the Bank of England after Metro Bank’s shares plunged by more than a quarter amid a race to shore up its finances. A Treasury source said officials were “monitoring the situation” and were in contact with the Threadneedle Street as the lender scrambles to raise up to £600m to boost its balance sheet.
Speculation about its finances prompted an unplanned market announcement from Metro, which said it was “evaluating the merits of a range of options” to boost cash, including a possible equity raise or an increase in debt. The company’s statement said the bank has been profitable on an underlying basis for three consecutive quarters and is meeting minimum regulatory capital requirements.
As part of fundraising efforts, Metro was sounding out potential buyers for a £3bn chunk of its mortgage book, including Natwest and Lloyds Banking Group, Sky News reported. About 40pc of Metro’s residential mortgages are interest-only, according to the bank’s latest half-year results. Selling mortgage assets would cut the amount of capital the bank is forced to hold.
Metro, which has 2.7m customers and 76 UK branches, suffered a setback last month when regulators failed to approve a plan that would have reduced the amount of capital it is required to hold for residential mortgages.
It means its capital requirements will not be lowered until next year at the earliest. The delay triggered concerns about the company’s financial position, with credit ratings agency Fitch on Wednesday placing Metro Bank on “negative” watch for possible downgrades.