Comment: Spanish eyes are focused on Clydesdale Bank

REPORTS that Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks may be sold are like the story of the boy who cried wolf – except that there looks to be more than a bit of mischief and speculation about the latest claims.

Santander UK boss Ana Botin declined to comment on a possible £2 billion bid for the banks when interviewed by a Sunday newspaper, but it read like a tacit hint from her that such an offer was in the pipeline.

Such an outcome would certainly please followers of parent group National Australia Bank (NAB) in its homeland, where there is constant pressure on it to sell its under-­performing UK assets.

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NAB shares rallied by their most in seven months on the back of the story, encouraging Australian investors and analysts alike to press NAB into a deal, even though the mooted price is below the £2.6bn book value for the UK banks.

Shareholders have seen profits in NAB hit hard by bad debts in the UK and its shares have underperformed the Australian banking sector.

A deal would also help Santander, which has seen plans to float its UK business delayed. It would benefit from the addition of Clydesdale and Yorkshire’s small business banking and corporate lending business which it is trying to develop.

Santander attempted to bulk up by acquiring 316 branches from Royal Bank of Scotland, only to see that deal flounder over alleged problems integrating the two banks’ IT systems. It is already Britain’s fifth-biggest bank after acquiring Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley. Clydesdale and Yorkshire would not only bulk up the non-retail business, they would also extend Santander’s reach into Scotland and the north of England. Crucially, it has the means to mount a bid after a capital injection from its Spanish parent.

NAB chief executive Cameron Clyne has looked at ways of expanding the UK business. However, NAB pulled out of negotiations over the RBS assets when it was thought to be the lead contender and has shown few signs of acquiring other businesses.

Clyne has resisted selling assets at a discount, but in this market – and with the possibility of selling without guarantees over future debts – he might be persuaded to do a deal.

After Blue Monday comes Cheery Tuesday

Feeling any more comfortable in your work today? According to researchers, or mythologists, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year for British workers.

So-called Blue Monday is when we’re at our lowest. New Year resolutions have failed, Christmas credit card bills are landing on the doormat and the weather is lousy. It’s also a time when people think of changing their job or lifestyle.

But research from employment agency Reed contradicts the theory. It says more people are feeling secure in their jobs and the number of employees receiving pay rises has leapt along with employee benefits packages.

The recruitment firm’s 2013 Salary and Market Insight Report shows three in four people already in employment (76 per cent) are “very satisfied”, “satisfied” or “neutral” about their position at the start of 2013.

Job security has also contributed to the comfort that people have in their line of work – more people feel safer in their jobs than at the end of 2011.

Some argue that the Blue Monday theory is a winter ploy by travel agents to encourage us to book a holiday in sunnier climes. They may have a point.