Hundreds more banking jobs could be at risk after National Australia Bank (NAB) said it was taking a much more pessimistic view of the UK economy and was launching a strategic review of its wholly owned Clydesdale Bank.
The news came as Lloyds Banking Group yesterday confirmed 990 posts are to go at its offices in Romford, Dudley, Scunthorpe and Newcastle. Lloyds, which has already cut 28,000 jobs since it was bailed out by the taxpayer, said the latest cuts were part of 15,000 job losses it outlined last year.
NAB's chief executive, Cameron Clyne, said the view of the UK from the other side of the world had deteriorated, meaning that there is likely to be "a much longer period of subdued growth", in part due to the Government's austerity programme. He added that UK growth of just 0.2 per cent in the final quarter was much lower than in other countries where NAB has operations.
Clydesdale has been up for sale for almost two years now with a mooted price tag of more than £2.5bn.
At the same time Virgin has bought Northern Rock for £747m, Co-op Bank is lined up to buy 632 branches from Lloyds for about £1.5bn and Royal Bank of Scotland sold 318 branches to Santander for £350m.
The only obvious remaining bank buyer – Lord Levene's vehicle NBNK – appears to have gone cold on Clydesdale, which at one point it looked at combining with the Lloyds branches sold under Project Verde.
Clydesdale yesterday said its bad debt provisions had jumped to 1.27 per cent of gross loans from 0.86 per cent in the previous six months as both retail and small business customers felt the pinch.
Mr Clyne acknowledged that a straight sale of Clydesdale is now less likely.
He said: "The review will assess many options and it's still too early to determine the recommendation. We can say that retaining the existing business mix and structure will not be an outcome."
He promised to reveal the result of the review by May.
Analysts said commercial property lending is one area most at risk since it has performed badly recently.
Clydesdale employs more than 8,000 people and runs just over 300 branches under its own and Yorkshire Bank fascias. Its pre-tax profit fell from £49m to £21m in the year to November, although that was after a £116m provision for mis-selling payment protection insurance.