Bradford & Bingley defers interest payments

29 May 2009

First it was shareholders and now it's those receiving interest payments from Bradford & Bingley's subordinated bonds who have potentially been left out of pocket.

The flopped lender has taken advantage of recent changes to the law to defer interest payments on £325 million worth of subordinated bonds.

It will skip payments on £150 million of floating rate subordinated notes due to mature in March 2054, £125 million of 6.625% notes due to mature in June 2023, and £50 million of 11.625% perpetual subordinated bonds. All notes have a coupon date in June or July.

However, it added that future payments will be decided on a case by case basis.

It is unknown if or when Bradford & Bingley will make up the missed payments. The move opens the door for other institutions, such as Northern Rock, to try a similar deferral on interest payments on their own subordinated bonds. UK subordinated bond prices dropped following the news.

Back in February, the government rewrote the rules to allow banks to defer interest payments on 'lower Tier 2 debt' until their taxpayer loans are repaid, claiming the move would clearly put taxpayers at the top of the credit hierarchy.

At the time Bradford & Bingley said it would pay coupons on its subordinated debt issues due in March, April and June, even though the Treasury had said it could skip the payments without triggering a default under credit default swap contracts.

A spokesman said those payments will be honoured but the ones after those will not be paid.

Bradford & Bingley was taken under the government's control last September although its savings book and branches were sold off to Spanish banking giant Santander. Its outstanding mortgage loan book is being wound down.

John Mulligan, founding director of the Investors' Association, says that this penny-pinching action will almost certainly cost the economy vastly more in the long term than it saves in the short term.

Even though it may not technically be a default under the re-written government terms, it will be viewed as much by international investors.

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