UK banks downgraded by Moody's

UK banks are again under pressure. Continued eurozone stress and confidence worries have all seen a brace of British banks - RBS, HSBC, even Barclays - have their ratings stuck on 'review' by Moody's credit rating agency.

Moody's has also pushed 100+ European lenders down a notch. How serious is the verdict for British players?

High Street kicking

The list of High Street names affected is familiar, including not just the likes of Barclays, HSBC and RBS but Skipton Building Society, Nationwide, Yorkshire Bromwich Building Society and Coventry Building Society, whose government guaranteed debt has been placed under review, but not their credit rating.

What prompted Moody to act is the increasingly long-term nature of the eurozone worry plus weakened creditworthiness of the region's sovereign states. The pressure on banks required to put more cash side against future financial crises has also dented growth potential and profitability.

What the downgrade means longer-term is that UK banks may find it more expensive to borrow. But it also means that the risk to UK taxpayers is also being pushed back across to bank creditors. To some extent, the borrowing situation across Europe was artificially boosted by €500bn of ECB cash pumped in across the eurozone in December.

New competition concern

Moody's, additionally, downgraded several UK financial big names two months earlier in October. And eurozone confidence has again been blasted since French bank Société Générale claimed net profits for the last quarter of 2011 sank nearly 90% to €100m, PA claims. UK bank shares slipped this morning too.

Yesterday Barclays shares sold at close to 245p; at the time of writing (12.40pm, Thursday) they were down to 237p. HSBC shares were worth up to 578p yesterday before drifting to 567p earlier this morning.

To make matters worse, it is thought the Office of Fair Trading is on the verge of telling UK banks they face a new Competition Commission inquiry.
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