Halifax mortgage would drop with 0.25% off interest: Chairman says lender committed to lower rate

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The Independent Online
MORTGAGE rates will be cut if there is a fall in interest rates of just 0.25 per cent, the Halifax building society said yesterday.

Jon Foulds, the chairman, said: 'We are firmly committed to getting the rate down.'

Announcing the society's results for last year, Mr Foulds said yesterday that any reduction in mortgage rates would have to be matched with cuts in savers' rates.

The society increased its profits by 27 per cent to pounds 866m. Operating profits increased by 8 per cent to pounds 1,137m, and provisions for bad debt were down by 27.35 per cent to pounds 271.2m.

'We don't feel apologetic about our profits,' Mr Foulds said. 'The only way we can build up reserves is by making profits.'

The society is quite comfortable with its mutual status. But Mike Blackburn, its chief executive, said: 'Mutuality and banking are not incompatible'.

John Wriglesworth, building society analyst with UBS, said: 'In the modern deregulated world, there is no place for building societies. There is no chance the Building Societies Act will survive in its present form. The essence of the Act is to force building societies to do what they have been doing since the 19th century. It's an anachronism.'

He praised Halifax for coming through the recession in good shape.

The society wants wider banking powers, and believes that more competition in banking would be beneficial to the industry.

The society only took 18 per cent of its funds from the capital markets, so it is untroubled by the statutory 40 per cent limit.

Its mortgage lending rose by 4 per cent to pounds 8.6bn, with net lending at pounds 3.2bn, making it the largest lender with 19 per cent of the UK mortgage market.

The estate agency reduced its losses to pounds 4m. The society's tie to Standard Life will come to an end in January when Halifax Life starts.

Halifax is wary about joining the new regulatory body, the Personal Investment Authority. Mr Foulds said he did not believe the organisation would deliver the step- change in the quality of regulation that had been promised. 'We don't want to be bound by people who are our competitors,' he said.