Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) may close its equities unit as the lender strives to shrink its investment bank, two people familiar with the matter said.
Shutting or selling the division, including UK stockbroker Hoare Govett, are among the options being considered by the bank's board, though no final decision has been made yet, said the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions aren't complete.
An announcement is expected by the time the bank reports full-year earnings at the end of February, the people said. The equities unit employs about 1,000 people.
RBS CEO Stephen Hester, 51, has said the investment bank is unsustainable at its current size because of regulatory change proposed by the UK government-appointed Independent Commission on Banking and because of shifts in investor demand. The unit, which employs about 19,000 people in total, reported a 29 per cent revenue drop in the third quarter compared with the year-earlier period.
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"The investment bank, in common with many other investment banks, will have to shrink further in order to be sustainable," Hester said on November 4. "With income very hard to grow we do need to take a very close look at the costs base. We are doing that, and unfortunately that will affect jobs."
The ICB proposals, which the government supports, mean banks will no longer be allowed to use their consumer units to provide cheap funding for investment-banking units.
Sale of Hoare Govett
An RBS official declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. The Sunday Telegraph reported the possible sale of Hoare Govett.
"We would welcome the sale or closure of the RBS equities business and see it as a positive for the stock," said Bruce Packard, analyst at Seymour Pierce Ltd. in London in a note to clients. "At the very least, the Hoare Govett business is a distraction to management. RBS was not alone, from 2009 onwards many banks hired aggressively in equities."
RBS's shares traded 0.6 per cent lower at 19.9 pence by 11:17am in London, and are down 49 per cent so far this year. The Edinburgh-based bank has shrunk its balance sheet by almost £1 trillion (Dh5.6 trillion) since Hester took over from Fred Goodwin in 2008.
RBS has already cut more than 30,000 jobs since receiving the world's biggest banking bailout. In August, the bank announced 2,000 job cuts at its Global Banking and Markets business over the next 12 to 18 months.
There will "be a still-further reduction in our investment banking operations that will result in part from regulation and in part from, if you like, market and investor changes", Hester told parliamentarians last month. "These things all blur together but they go in the same direction."