Sunday, January 20, 2019

What a wonderful Worldpay

I have followed Natwest Streamline down the rabbit hole this weekend after seeing it as an acquiring banks option in Sage Pay.

Here's the story.

When NatWest was acquired in 2002 by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Natwest Streamline was renamed RBS WorldPay.

A decade ago, as part of the general financial crisis RBS had to be bailed out by UK tax payers. As recently as last year, the Royal Bank of Scotland's chairman admitted it is "unlikely" we will get back all the £45.5bn pumped in to the bank. In the same lecture he explained that at the time of the rescue the bank had been required to meet state aid requirements from the European Commission by selling off businesses which "materially reduced RBS's market value."

One of the businesses the collective genius of the government, the EU, and the bank itself identified as reducing RBS' market value was WorldPay (née Natwest Streamline), so it was sold to private investment firms for £2bn. It was floated on the stock market in 2015, and then two years later agreed to a £7.7 billion ($9.95 billion) bid from US credit card technology firm Vantiv.

That is £5.7 billion more than RBS had raised for it eight years earlier in a fire sale. It is a 285% profit that would have made a 12.5% dent in the total £45.5bn bailout.

It is estimated that there are 30 million tax payers in the UK. £5.7 billion is £190 each that was - in essence - given away. It is a text book example of the incompetence of corporate governance in the UK, the venality of the finance industry, and how we end up footing the bill.

You'd think people would be cross, but nada.

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