December 20: Lloyds’ retail bank boss goes fishing

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Lloyds TSB is selling its Goldfish credit card business to Morgan Stanley for almost £1bn, which represents a £175m premium on Goldfish’s outstanding loans of about £800m. Lloyds says it expects the deal to boost its full-year pre-tax profit by about £70m. This is Terri Dial’s first big move since the American took over Lloyds’s UK retail bank earlier this year and it comes just two years after the bank bought the 70 per cent it did not already own in Goldfish from Centrica. It’s quite interesting to watch some of the big investment banks dip into the British retail market: we will carry a feature tomorrow from Jane Croft, our banking correspondent, about how a number of them are expanding into the sub-prime mortgage market.

Much discussion today in the newsroom and in morning conference about how to take on yesterday’s Rentokil story about the group closing its defined benefit pension scheme to current employees and moving them across to the rather less attractive defined contribution scheme. This is a great story: there can be few companies out there with pension deficits who would not like to do the same thing (which is dreadful news for those of us in DB schemes). We have a number of ideas about what we should write but we won’t know until a bit later which ones will come off. I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more frothing about this in the blogosphere, although if you want a laugh, check out this stuff about Rentokil’s SMS rat-trap.

The head of the banking division at Misys which caused the profits warning in September, Ivan Martin, is leaving. Kevin Lomax, chief executive of the software services group, will step in until a replacement is found. Meanwhile, Martin and Misys are in discussions about his pay-off. The group announced his departure at the same time as publishing a trading update that showed a better than expected performance in banking and healthcare. The stock is up strongly as a result.

Things look bleak at Maiden, the outdoor advertising group. It issued a profits warning today and has taken on Rothschild to advise it on its options after breaching its banking covenants.

Sir Martin Sorrell has sold £12m worth of WPP stock. Presumably this is to fund his divorce. Or he’s going to have a blow-out Christmas. Indelicate as it may sound, the divorces of high-profile executives are an interesting story but we have done quite a bit on this recently and so will probably give today’s news quite short treatment.

I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas. This blog will be published intermittently between now and the new year, when full service will resume.

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