PracticeAuditRock shareholders blast bank on aggressive writedowns

Rock shareholders blast bank on aggressive writedowns

Aggrieved Northern Rock shareholders have questioned the bank’s aggressive writedowns on unsecured loans, claiming that the impairments may reduce compensation claims

The nationalised bank released its annual report for 2007 this week, where it
revealed that it had taken a £471.9m impairment charge on loans and advances and
unsecured loans. The bank also booked non-recurring expenses of £127m.

Roger Lawson, director of the UK Shareholders Association, said: ‘The
write-offs make the numbers look a lot worse going forward. If you mark the
[financial instruments] to market they look worthless, but they could be worth
something in the future,’ he said. ‘The underlying profits were actually a lot
better than expected.’

The writedowns row could herald further and ongoing political difficulty for
the government. Shareholders are already threatening litigation over the
nationalisation.

Following the release of the accounts on Monday, the government moved a step
closer to appointing an accountant to calculate the value of Northern Rock after
an order was put before parliament last night to start the ball rolling.

The eventual winner of the work will be tasked with calculating how much
Northern Rock is worth after the government’s £25bn bail-out package has been
stripped out.

A Northern Rock spokesman defended the writedowns: ‘These accounts have been
fully audited. There was evidence of deterioration in markets and the
impairments reflect that.’

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