29 Sep 2008

Second British bank in trouble, rescue deal for insurance giant

9:45 pm on 29 September 2008

A big British bank has been nationalised as the credit crisis continues to be felt around the world.

The BBC says Bradford & Bingley's branch network will be sold to one or more commercial banks. The British government will say only that discussions on the bank are continuing.

Bradford & Bingley shares have tumbled to a record low in the international credit crunch and Britain's sliding housing market.

Meanwhile, the governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have put together a multi-billion-dollar rescue package of one of Europe's biggest banking and insurance companies, Fortis.

Shares in Fortis have lost three-quarters of their value this year and fell 20% on Friday.

The three governments will inject $US23 billion into Fortis to keep it afloat.

Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos says the package is crucial for the future of Fortis, which is the biggest private sector employer in Belgium. More than 1.5 million households, or about half of the country, bank with it.

The announcement follows a move by United States regulators on Friday to seize savings and loan company Washington Mutual in the biggest bank failure in US history, selling its assets to JPMorgan Chase & Co .

Europe's biggest bank, HSB, says it is cutting 1,100 jobs, adding to more than 80,000 job losses in banking in the past 18 months.

Meanwhile, top US Senate Republicans say they have reached the broad outline of a rescue plan for the country's financial system but details remain to be worked out.

Share markets have responded nervously to the latest moves to ease the financial crisis.

Shares in London fell nearly 2% in early trading, with the banking sector under particular pressure.

Japanese shares fell by a similar amount, while the Hong Kong index lost nearly 3%.