United Kingdom: Supporting and safeguarding

Author: | Published: 1 Oct 2009
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Since the onset of the global economic downturn, the UK Government has responded with a package of measures designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system, to increase confidence and capacity to lend and, in turn, to support the recovery of the economy.

On October 8 2008, HM Treasury announced a recapitalisation scheme and a credit guarantee scheme. This announcement was followed on October 13 2008 by an announcement of the implementation of these measures. The overall aim of these measures was (i) to support stability in the financial system; (ii) to protect savers, depositors, businesses and borrowers ; and (iii) to safeguard the interests of the taxpayer.

Recapitalisation scheme

The purpose of the Recapitalisation Scheme was to make available new Tier 1 capital to UK banks and building societies to strengthen their capital resources. This would permit them to restructure their balance sheets, while maintaining their support for the real economy. In November and December 2008 the shareholders of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds TSB and HBOS approved their recapitalisation through the Recapitalisation Scheme and the Government subsequently invested £20 billion in RBS and £17 billion in what is now Lloyds Banking Group (created following the merger of Lloyds TSB and HBOS in January 2009).

Other financial institutions announced plans to raise their capital levels without Government support. The Government has since agreed to convert the RBS and Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyds) preference shares, plus accrued coupon and underwriting fees, into ordinary shares.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

The purpose of the 2008 Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) is to help restore confidence by making available to eligible institutions Government guarantees of eligible debt issuance. HM Treasury acts as guarantor for the use of the CGS, while the Debt Management Office handles the operational aspects of the CGS. UK incorporated banks (including UK subsidiaries of foreign institutions) that have a substantial business in the UK and UK building societies are eligible to participate in the CGS. Any other UK incorporated bank (including UK subsidiaries of foreign institutions) may apply for inclusion.

Debt instruments eligible to be guaranteed are certificates of deposit (CDs), commercial paper (CP), and senior unsecured bonds and notes. Originally, instruments were required to be denominated in sterling, euro or US dollars. On December 15 2008, the Government announced that it would also permit the issue of instruments in Japanese yen, Australian dollars, Canadian dollars and Swiss francs.

As announced on October 13 2008, the drawdown window for the CGS was for a period of six months. On January 19 2009, the Government announced that the drawdown window would be extended. Following approval from the European Commission, the window has been extended from April 9 2009 to October 13 2009.

Guaranteed debt instruments can have maturities of up to three years. After the closure of the drawdown window, participants can continue rolling over any outstanding guaranteed debt (all of it until April 13 2012 and up to one-third of the total until April 9 2014). The CGS has been widely used – over £100 billion of debt issued by eligible institutions has been guaranteed under the CGS. Participants to date include Tesco Personal Finance, Close Brothers Finance (the issuance subsidiary of Close Brothers Limited), Investec Bank (formerly known as Investec Bank (UK) Limited) and Standard Life Bank.

These are in addition to those eight who were initially eligible, namely Abbey National, Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank, HSBC Bank, Lloyds TSB Bank, Nationwide Building Society, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered Bank.

The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) has deemed that, under the standardised approach, guaranteed securities would qualify for zero risk weighting for capital adequacy purposes. The Bank of England has confirmed that guaranteed instruments constitute eligible collateral in all its extended-collateral operations, which included the Special Liquidity Scheme and includes its successor, the extended Discount Window Facility.

Further measures

On January 19 2009, the UK Government announced a further package of measures that were designed to support lending. The package of initiatives included (i) extending the drawdown window under the CGS (see above); (ii) establishing the asset-backed securities guarantee facility; (iii) extending the 30 day maturity date for the Bank's Discount Window Facility to 365 days, thereby providing liquidity to the banking sector by allowing banks to swap less liquid assets; (iv) establishing the Bank's asset purchase facility; (v) offering an asset protection scheme for banks; and (vi) clarifying the regulatory approach to capital requirements, through an announcement by the FSA.

Asset Purchase Facility

The Asset Purchase Facility (APF) was set up to increase the availability of corporate credit and was then further utilised for the purposes of quantitative easing.

The first market notice of February 6 2009 detailed the intended parameters for the Bank to purchase up to £50 billion of high-quality private sectors assets, namely (i) commercial paper (CP), (ii) corporate bonds, (iii) paper issued under the CGS, (iv) syndicated loans, and (v) asset-backed securities created in viable securitisation structures.

Companies eligible are those that make a material contribution to economic activity in the United Kingdom, most likely to be UK corporates (including those with foreign parents) with existing CP programmes with a genuine business in the UK.

Credit Easing (CE)

The first phase became operational on February 13 2009 and authorised the Bank to only purchase investment grade commercial paper in the primary market via dealers and in the secondary markets from eligible counterparties. These purchases were to be funded by the issuance of Treasury Bills by the Debt Management Office for the purposes of CE. The purchase of CP was subject to the £50 billion cap mentioned above.

Quantitative Easing (QE)

The second phase became operational on March 5 2009 and introduced the Monetary Policy Committee's £75 billion (completely separate from the £50 billion mentioned above) programme of asset purchases, which was to include the purchase of medium and long maturity conventional gilts in the secondary market. This programme was initiated to effect QE and was to be funded by central bank reserves rather the issuance of Treasury Bills from this point in time.

The programme was increased to a total of £125 billion on May 7 2009. In July, the Bank passed the £125 billion mark of asset purchases targeted under its quantitative easing policy, with the majority of purchases made up of gilts (£122,374 million), alongside smaller quantities of commercial paper (£1,804 million) and corporate bonds (£918 million) and the APF was further increased by £50 billion to £175 billion on August 6 2009.

In the intervening periods, two further limbs of the APF were introduced. The Corporate Bond Secondary Market Scheme (regular small purchases of a wide range of high-quality corporate bonds through weekly reverse auctions) was put into place on March 25 2009 and on July 30 2009 the Bank announced the extension of the APF to allow for the purchase of asset-backed commercial paper securities.

Secured Commercial Paper Facility

The Secured Commercial Paper Facility (SCPF) technically became available from August 3 2009, though it will, in fact, only become operational as secured commercial paper programmes are deemed eligible. This is intended to help improve the function of the private market by standing ready to make primary market purchases and by acting as a backstop for secondary market investors.

Newly issued secured commercial paper (SCP), as for the current commercial paper facility, will be purchased by a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank, namely the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund Limited. Such purchases will be made using central bank reserves or funds raised by the Debt Management Office, in the primary market via dealers, and after issuance from other eligible counterparties by acting as a backstop for secondary market investors.

The SCPF will run for as long as it is required to aid the markets and the Bank will only withdraw the SCPF on twelve months' notice. The Bank has said that it will not serve such notice in the first three months of the life of the SCPF to take account of the time taken to set up new programmes.

Eligibility

The Bank has stipulated a number of eligibility criteria and has made it clear that it will be focussing particularly on the assets underlying the security to ensure that the purpose of the SCPF is met – namely to ensure that the assets are purchased from companies that contribute to activity in the UK economy. Eligible assets will be those that provide direct short-term credit to companies, such as trade receivables and equipment leases and short-term credit to consumers, such as credit cards and short-term loans. The Bank has identified assets that will likely not be eligible, such as term ABS bonds (those with average maturities longer than nine months), emerging market transactions and synthetic assets.

Ratings of the underlying assets in the programme must be consistent with the A-1/P-1/F1 programme rating from at least two of Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch (including those on negative watch at these ratings) and sponsors will be required to provide information sufficient for the Bank to assess the underlying quality of each asset pool, such as the models used to determine levels of credit enhancement. The weighted average life of the programme's assets must not exceed nine months, with no underlying asset to have an expected final maturity of more than one and a half years.

In addition, for securities to be eligible, they must (i) be denominated in sterling, (ii) have a maturity of one week to nine months if purchased in the primary market or an original maturity of nine months or less if purchased in the secondary market, and (iii) not have any non-standard features (such as extendibility or subordination).

Programme limits

There are limits by programme on how much SCP the Bank will purchase. They are based on what proportion of the underlying assets providing credit to borrowers make a material contribution to economic activity in the UK.

Pricing

Pricing in the primary market will be discounted using a rate based on the maturity-matched overnight index swap (OIS) rate, with an initial spread to the OIS rate of 100 basis points.

Asset-Backed Securities Guarantee Facility

In November 2008, the Crosby Report stated that it is "the inability to refinance existing mortgage-backed funding and the continuing pressures in wholesale funding markets which is really hitting the banks' capacity to make new loans... ." Crosby continued by stating that, despite Government intervention designed to help banks cope with the closure of wholesale money markets which removed the immediate threat to financial stability, he "still expect[s] that mortgage lenders will have to live with little or no access to asset-backed funding through 2008 to 2010, together with having to cope with in excess of £160 billion of redemptions of existing paper over the same period".

The 2009 Asset-backed Securities Guarantee Scheme (ABSGS) was launched on April 22 2009 in response to the Crosby recommendations. Under the ABSGS, HM Treasury can provide one of two types of guarantee to be attached to eligible triple-A rated asset-backed securities, initially in respect of residential mortgages, issued under the sponsorship of UK banks and building societies. The ABSGS is aimed at reinvigorating the issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities.

Credit and liquidity guarantees

The ABSGS offers a credit guarantee and a liquidity guarantee, though an eligible instrument may only benefit from one, not both of these.

The credit guarantee is a traditional guarantee and follows that of the CGS in that it constitutes an unconditional and irrevocable guarantee of the timely payment of all interest and principal due from an issuer and payable in respect of the eligible instruments.

The liquidity guarantee is essentially a guarantee of an issuer's obligation to redeem or repurchase securities pursuant to an issuer's call option or a noteholder's put option under the terms of the eligible securities. In the event that the issuer is unable to honour its obligation (for example, having not been put in funds by the originating entity), HM Treasury, as guarantor, will purchase the securities from the holders at the relevant price.

The relevant price will be the principal amount outstanding of the eligible instruments as at the due date, adjusted to include accrued but unpaid interest but reduced to reflect any principal losses on the loan portfolio allocable to the eligible instruments.

Eligible instruments

The criteria for the ABSGS are geared primarily toward assessing the underlying quality of the mortgage portfolios as this is thought to make the securities ultimately marketable to third party investors. Securities must be single currency denominated, rated AAA (or the equivalent) at the time of issue by at least two international credit rating agencies (ignoring the availability of the applicable credit or liquidity guarantee), listed in London, Ireland or Luxembourg. In addition, mortgage loans must be made after January 1 2008, secured by a valid first ranking mortgage and have a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio at origination not exceeding 90% of the lower of the purchase price or the then most recent valuation of the mortgaged property.

Also, the weighted average LTV ratio of all the mortgage loans in the pool must not, by reference to the mortgage loans at their respective origination, exceed 75% of the lower of the respective purchase prices of the mortgaged properties or the most recent valuations as at the time of origination. Borrowers must not have an adverse credit history, cannot self-certify their mortgages and must not have had any history of arrears.

Indemnities

Under the Credit Guarantee, HM Treasury is entitled to be indemnified by both the originator and the issuer for any amounts paid out but only by the originator under the Liquidity Guarantee. HM Treasury will effectively step-in to the shoes of the security holders in terms of any claims it has against any issuer and this will include rights over the underlying security.

Periodic reporting

Issuers will be required to produce periodic reports, at least quarterly, to investors and HM Treasury in line with international best practice and the rules cite the RMBS Issuer Principles for Transparency and Disclosure, Version 1 as an example, which was published by the European Securitisation Forum in February 2009. Version 2 of the same is currently under consultation and may include looking at developing due diligence procedures based on the new buy side requirements part of the Capital Requirements Directive.

The ABSGS has been welcomed by the securitisation world, most notably by SIFMA's (Europe and Asia) executive vice president, Karsten Moller as "an important additional step in helping to restore investor confidence". She lauded the Government for "wisely utilising securitisation as an important solution to increase funding for potential homeowners" and hoped that those on the continent would follow their example. The essence of these comments has been mirrored by others, such as the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Asset Protection Scheme

The purpose of the Asset Protection Scheme (APS) is to remove continuing uncertainty about the value of participant banks' past investments, to clean up participant banks' balance sheets and to provide them with greater confidence to rebuild and restructure their operations and increase lending in the economy.

Portfolio composition

Under the APS, in return for a fee, HM Treasury will provide to each participating institution protection against credit losses incurred from January 1 2009 on assets covered by the APS to the extent that they exceed a first loss amount to be borne by the institution. Such assets may include portfolios of commercial and residential property loans, structured credit assets (including residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), collateralised loan obligations (CLO) and collateralised debt obligations (CDO)), certain other corporate and leveraged loans and any closely related hedges, in each case held by the participating institution as at December 31 2008.

First loss amount

HM Treasury will cover 90% of the credit losses that exceed this first loss amount and each participating institution will be required to retain the remaining 10% residual exposure that exceeds the first loss amount. The first loss amount and the residual exposure are designed to incentivise participating institutions to keep losses to a minimum.

Eligibility

The conditions for participating in the APS include requirements that each participating institution is adequately capitalised, has a sustainable business model and that its senior management team is credible.

Agreement in principle

RBS announced on 27 February 2009 that it had reached an agreement in principle in respect of its participation in the APS in respect of £325 billion of assets. Subsequently, in March 2009, Lloyds announced that it had reached an agreement in principle in respect of £250 billion of assets.

About the author

Matthew Tobin became a partner in the financing group at Slaughter and May in 2005, having trained and practised at the firm since 1996. He advises on a wide range of banking and financing work, including acquisition and bid financing, capital markets and securitisation transactions.

Matthew advised HM Treasury on the 2008 Credit Guarantee Scheme for UK incorporated banks and building societies, the Asset Protection Scheme, the administration of Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander Limited (a subsidiary of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing), the administration of Heritable Bank plc (a subsidiary of the Icelandic bank Landsbank Islands hf) and the transfer of Bradford & Bingley’s UK and Isle of Man retail deposit business along with its branch network to Abbey National plc and HM Treasury’s acquisition of rights in respect of the proceeds of the wind-down and realisation of the assets of the remaining business of Bradford & Bingley in public ownership.
Contact information

Matthew Tobin
Slaughter and May

One Bunhill Row
London
EC1Y 8YY

Tel: +44 (0)20 7600 1200
Fax: +44 (0)20 7090 5000
Web: www.slaughterandmay.com


About the author

Guy O'Keefe became a partner in the financing group at Slaughter and May in 2007, having trained and practised at the firm since 1998. He advises on a wide range of banking and financing work, including capital markets, securitisation and structured finance transactions.

Guy recently acted for HM Treasury in connection with the 2009 Asset-backed Securities Guarantee Scheme for RMBS and on certain aspects of the Banking Act 2009. He also advised HM Treasury on the temporary public ownership of Northern Rock, the administration of Icelandic banks Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander and Heritable, the sale of Bradford & Bingley's retail deposit business to Abbey National plc. He currently advises HM Treasury in relation to its interests in Northern Rock plc and Bradford & Bingley.
Contact information

Guy O'Keefe
Slaughter and May

One Bunhill Row
London
EC1Y 8YY

Tel: +44 (0)20 7600 1200
Fax: +44 (0)20 7090 5000
Web: www.slaughterandmay.com