Comment: New boss at Clydesdale parent | IPO market

Terry Murden. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Terry Murden. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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ALL change at National Australia Bank (NAB) as chief executive Cameron Clyne decides to leave at the age of 46 claiming the job was taking its toll.

That’s pressure. His decision also piles a good deal of the same pressure back on to the board and his successor Andrew Thorburn, a New Zealander not to be confused with David Thorburn, chief executive of the bank’s UK subsidiaries, Clydesdale and Yorkshire.

The new Thorburn will be handed the job of hand-wringing over the future of the UK banks which have been a source of discomfort for the Melbourne-based company for some years. The problem for Clyne was that either he or the board could not decide whether to hold on to their northern hemisphere assets.

Certainly the banking crisis left NAB watchers wondering why it did not pull out of Britain. At first the Clydesdale and Yorkshire presented themselves as the cleaner alternative to those caught directly in the eye of the banking storm. Only later did it emerge that they were involved in some bad practices of their own.

More immediately, the new regime will need to address the UK’s patchy performance and at some point the New Zealander can be expected to cast another eye over the the business. It is hardly likely to be a priority. As he does not take the reins until August, he cannot be expected to make any decisions until next year.

It emerged yesterday that NAB received no offers for Clydesdale and Yorkshire under Clyne which suggests that he may have tried and failed to offload them.

NAB also pulled out of the auction for the 312 branches that Royal Bank of Scotland was forced to sell, despite being favourite to buy them in order to bulk up into a bigger challenger bank. Acquisition opportunities are now few and far between.

This uncertainty has hung over the UK operations for too long, but it may tell us something about the problems of artificially trying to reshape the sector by European directive and of NAB’s inability to significantly build on its market share. 

Just Eat success keeps IPOs on the menu

JUST Eat, the online takeaway service, made a successful debut on the London Stock Exchange yesterday, the latest in a long line of companies coming to market.

It was the biggest technology flotation in eight years and that fact alone reflects the degree of confidence that investors have re-discovered in the equity markets.

The flow of well-known companies taking the public route has turned into flood, with House of Fraser, Poundland and Pets at Home among those that have either listed or are considering doing so. Valuations are now encouraging private equity owners of companies such as Just Eat to exit through a sale of shares. The premiums being achieved and the sums raised beyond expectations are proving there is still an appetite for initial public offerings (IPOs) despite the huge sums so far demanded of investors.

Soon we should see TSB priced for sale by Lloyds Banking Group, while Exova, the Edinburgh-based testing company, is poised to become the first main market Scottish IPO for two years. Miller Group, the Scottish housebuilder and mining company, is also looking like a candidate in the next couple of years.

There are worries, of course, that valuations have got beyond themselves and that another bubble is about to burst.