Scotland poll sends UK banks tumbling

Fears ‘yes’ vote could create additional costs for Lloyds and RBS

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Scottish independence may remain a long-shot with the bookmakers, but equity investors have been turning more cautious.

Royal Bank of Scotland was Tuesday’s biggest FTSE faller after a YouGov survey showed support strengthening for a “yes” vote in this month’s referendum. RBS lost 2.4 per cent to 351.5p on twice the average volume while Bank of Scotland owner Lloyds Banking Group slid 1.4 per cent to 74.8p as three times the average changed hands.

With registered headquarters located in Scotland, a “yes” vote would create complex legal issues and additional costs for both Lloyds and RBS, said Credit Suisse. Independence would also further complicate the government’s privatisation process, it said.

Using postcode lending data, Credit Suisse estimated that RBS was carrying between £40bn and £55bn of Scottish loans, equivalent to 10-15 per cent of the group total. Lloyds looked to have £26bn of Scottish loans, or about 5 per cent of the total, while its TSB Bank spin-off had nearly a quarter of its mortage book in Scotland, the broker said.

TSB was down 0.4 per cent to 282p in a directionless market, which left the FTSE 100 better by 3.86 points to 6,829.17.

Weir Group, the pump maker, rose 2.5 per cent to £27.06 after Credit Suisse switched preference from sector peer IMI, down 1.8 per cent to £13.29.

While Weir and IMI are valued similarly, the former offers exposure to oil and mining budgets whereas the latter carries a risk of spending cuts by power utilities, CS said.

Anglo American climbed 2.5 per cent to £15.62 after chief executive Mark Cutifani reiterated in an interview that he was open to takeover offers.

Vodafone rose 1.1 per cent to 208.9p after newswires belatedly picked up a Nikkei Asian Review report that it might be a takeover target for Softbank. People familiar with the sector dismissed the report as speculative.

AstraZeneca lost 0.8 per cent to £45.41 after Pascal Soriot, its chief executive, suggested on the sidelines of a Barcelona industry conference that the company was not currently in talks with Pfizer.

“The only thing I can tell you is I am here [in Barcelona] — and imagine where I would be if something was happening,” Mr Soriot was quoted as saying. His comment appeared to contradict a Dagens report last week claiming discussions between AstraZeneca and Pfizer were underway.

Separately, Suntrust Robinson predicted that Pfizer would come back with a £58.25 per share offer for AstraZeneca.

Dixons Carphone extended a rally, rising 0.5 per cent to 370.4p, which put it on the cusp of promotion into the FTSE 100 as part of Wednesday’s reshuffle. Barratt Developments, down 1.7 per cent to 362.4p, looked likely to make way for the recently merged retailer.

Tracker funds will need to sell the equivalent to three days’ average volume in Barratt and buy two days worth of Dixons, according to SocGen. Trackers have had much longer to position for an expected blue-chip promotion of insurer Direct Line, up 0.8 per cent to 302.6p, and demotion of can maker Rexam, down 0.3 per cent to 502.5p.

GW Pharmaceuticals dropped in late trading to close 2.9 per cent lower at 445.8p after fellow epilepsy drug developer Sage Therapeutics presented pre-clinical data for a second-generation seizure drug.

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