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Breakingviews - Capital Calls: Lloyds’ risky property punt

A sign hangs outside a Lloyds Bank branch in London, Britain, February 21, 2017.

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Concise insights on global finance in the Covid-19 era.

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RENT RUMBLE. Betting on rising house prices is something of a national sport in Britain. Charlie Nunn, the incoming chief executive of the country’s biggest lender Lloyds Banking Group, might as well get in on the act. The 28 billion pound company, which controls nearly one-quarter of the UK mortgage market, may buy and rent out new and existing housing stock, according to the Financial Times, which cited internal bank documents.

As with Lloyds’ push into fee-based businesses like wealth management, the idea is probably to offset the effects of low interest rates. Becoming a landlord could in theory boost Lloyds’ asset yields in a world of razor-thin lending margins. But it would also give the bank an unusual equity-like exposure to property values. Regulators tend to discourage risky exposures through punitive capital rules. For banks, desperate times call for desperate measures. (By Aimee Donnellan)

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