City File: Lever advice

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The Independent Online
BUY on a strike, ran the old saw. Not as far as the TSB is concerned, according to Michael Lever of Smith New Court, a long-time bear of the shares.

Lever has halved his estimate for the group's profits, to be announced next week, to a mere pounds 62m, on further massive write-offs on Mortgage Express and Hill Samuel's property loans. This is less than half the optimists' prediction. He also downplays the takeover hopes, which have sent the shares up from 120p to 156p in the past three months. His reasoning: there are simply no mug punters around prepared to stump up the pounds 3bn required to buy TSB at, say, 200p a share. And the strike? Even if TSB wins and sacks an extra thousand staff, it will still be overstaffed.