Banks bow to pressure and axe shareholder payments

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Some of the UK’s biggest banks have agreed to scrap dividend payments and hold onto the cash, which may be needed during the coronavirus crisis.

The Bank of England welcomed the decision to suspend the payments to shareholders and urged the banks not to pay bonuses to senior staff either.

The banks, which include NatWest, Santander and Barclays, were due to pay out billions to shareholders.

But in recent days they have come under pressure to hold onto the money.

The deputy governor of the Bank of England, Sam Woods, wrote to some banking bosses asking them to suspend dividend payments. He asked them to confirm their decision by Tuesday evening.

In a statement, the Prudential Regulation Authority, which is part of the Bank of England, said: “Although the decisions taken today will result in shareholders not receiving dividends, they are a sensible precautionary step given the unique role that banks need to play in supporting the wider economy through a period of economic disruption.

Between them, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered, were expected to pay a total of £15.6bn to shareholders, according to analysis from investment firm AJ Bell.

But they will now retain those funds, which the Bank of England said “should help the banks support the economy through 2020”.

However, the Bank said it did not expect the money to be needed, noting that the banks had more than enough money in reserve to deal with both a global recession and a shock in the financial markets.

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