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August 4: At the end of a week in which most banks have reported sharp rises in bad debts, we have figures showing a large jump in the number of insolvencies in England and Wales. These are now at record levels, with a very large proportion in the form of individual voluntary arrangements, which several of the banks have complained about. Some banks have called the peak in the bad debts cycle, which we will explore in much more detail in tomorrow’s paper. The last big bank to report is RBS, which today said its bad debt charge was up just 5 per cent in the first half.
The other pleasant surprise comes from Anglo American which, with strong interim results, announced plans to return an extra $5bn to shareholders (and shelved any thought of selling off its Tarmac building materials business). The shares are up 4 per cent.
BA reported strong Q1 profits but, in a rare agreement with Ryanair, said the second half was looking more difficult because of higher fuel costs and tough competition. Lex says chief executive Willie Walsh is right not to plough more cash into dividends or pensions.
Fortress Investment’s takeover of Telent, the rump of the old Marconi empire, failed at the EGM this morning after opposition from Polygon, a hedge fund with 24 per cent. Curiously, far from collapsing as some predicted, Telent shares are up a touch.
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