Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gambling still at the heart of the banks

The share price of AIB has risen by 430% (or so) over the past six months. Bank of Ireland is up over 890% in the same period!

Why? Has the economy recovered so magnificently in Ireland to warrant such rises in the banks' share prices? Eh, no, just in case you were in any doubt.

No, the reason the price of the shares has gone up so much is because of all the government's plans, which means that all these people buying the banks' shares know that the government's intervention - that is, Nama - will be so kind to the banks that profitability is only around the corner. And, it means that gamblers are still a big force in the banks.

How do I know? I know because all these people buying the banks' shares are betting on the government actions. They have not been buying with a view to a return to the Celtic Tiger days and profits all around. No, they are simply making a bet on what Brian Lenihan will do today.

Unless the Minister for Finance stings these people pretty severely today, we can all expect that the banks will - in short order - return to the sort of blind lending as described by Colm Keena in today's Irish Times.
Although your average customer seeking a loan is asked to give a complete account of his or her financial affairs, this was not the case with major developers at the height of the property boom.

“In the 2004/2005 to 2007 period, the borrower dictated the terms in which they did business with the banks,” according to the source. “The banks were told: ‘This is the way I do business and if you don’t give me the loan I will go to someone else who will’. And that was usually Anglo [Irish Bank].