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Yorkshire and Chelsea merger will create 'a second major force'

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The Yorkshire and Chelsea building societies confirmed they would be merging in a move that would create "a second major force" in the sector behind Nationwide, but which will see branches closed and jobs cut. Chelsea, which made a £19m loss in the first half of this year, and has been buffeted by a £41m mortgage fraud and a £55m exposure to failed Icelandic banks, said there would be no cash for windfall payments. Holders of its subordinated debt have also lost out as £200m of Chelsea debt will be swapped for half that amount of Yorkshire debt.

 

Iain Cornish, Yorkshire chief executive, who will run the enlarged group, said the merger will create a "back-to-basics, traditional building society" with 2.7 million members and £35bn in assets, concentrating on residential mortgages and savings. The new organisation will be known as Yorkshire building society, although the Chelsea building society name will be retained as a separate brand. Cornish insisted the deal was not a rescue or a bail-out, saying: "We are not in the business of rescuing other building societies."

 

The Chelsea is the latest in a string of weak societies taken over by stronger ones; others include the Barnsley, Scarborough, Cheshire and Derbyshire. Dunfermline building society collapsed in March, with its debts and assets split between the Treasury and the Nationwide. But society bosses insist they are "not in crisis". They point out how it was the demutualisers –such as Northern Rock, Halifax, and Bradford & Bingley – not the societies which went to the taxpayer for a bailout. They also say the predicted avalanche of mortgage arrears has not materialised. But the latest figures on savings inflows and mortgage market share reveal an industry starved of funds, amid mounting evidence of poor quality lending and rash moves into commercial lending by some societies.

 

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Yorkshire and Chelsea merger will create 'a second major force' | Business | guardian.co.uk


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