FRIDAY 11th FEBRUARY 2000; The End of NatWest
I call a team meeting to update my staff on last night. At 9.30 I start by saying that I will first explain why we have not conceded, which has caused much comment in the press this morning. As I start, Alison rushes in with a fax. It is a press release, saying that we have now conceded! We will work together etc; the wording is very much as Sir David suggested last might. That changes my planned speech somewhat, but I go through last night’s meeting, then we discuss what happens next.
In purchasing, we need to get on with our own attempt at integration planning - I want us to be on the front foot when RBS arrive. My team are already thinking of opportunities, and in some cases have even talked to suppliers about them. Some suppliers are worried, because we have better pricing than RBS and suppliers think we are going to insist they reduce the RBS price to our level. Of course, they are wrong; we will want an even better deal if they want the combined business!
We discuss what this means for Redgrave (our joint vetnrue with Andersens). My honest answer is I have no idea but obviously it will be reviewed. It could die, or continue, or be put on hold; perhaps this last option is the most likely in the short term. Generally, the mood is not bad. People are quite excited in a way, although some are worried about pensions and so on in much the same way as Redgrave has concerned them.
I can't see one of my managers at the meeting- she was actually my last recruit before the bid started, ironically joining last autumn from RBS. Nobody seems to know where she is -my God, perhaps she was a double agent and has now returned to base, her work done! Paranoia rules and I am actually a little worried for a couple of hours until she turns up from a supplier meeting.
Team Talk is inundated with traffic as staff try to find out what is going on, or just waste time. The best item is "I'll get me coat..."- messages using catch phrases from the Fast Show but with a NW /RBS angle. They are very creative and some are hilarious. By lunchtime, Team Talk is closed down as the volume of network traffic is affecting the performance of the core customer facing banking systems! (Or maybe it is just too much of a time waster...) My lunchtime meeting is cancelled so I buy the first round at Smithies as we have a mass team visit. I'm not sure we know whether this is a party, a wake, or a wedding!
The NatWest Stock Exchange announcement appears on the Intranet.
"It has subsequently become clear that the majority ofNatWest's institutional shareholders intend to support The Royal Bank of Scotland. Its offer can therefore be expected to achieve acceptances in excess of the 50% threshold. The Board considers that it would not be in shareholders' interests to remain as a minority in a company that was no longer independent. Accordingly, the board now advises those shareholders who have not done so to accept the offer..."
Sir David's message finishes by congratulating RBS and looks forward to helping them ensure the success of the new organisation - although I doubt whether he personally is going to have much of an impact. Well, after almost five months, the crowd are on the pitch. They think it's all over. It is now!
The Evening Standard front page is dominated by the huge headline. "21000 BANK JOBS TO GO AS NATWEST SURRENDER".
3000 of this number are jobs at Lloyds, who have also announced cuts today. The rest are RBS/NW. The report also talks about the takeover ending 342 years of independence- an historic moment indeed. RBS shares have fallen today to 858p, valuing NatWest at £20.4 billion. That is more than 10% below the value a few days ago, and well below the £25/26 billion we were looking at a few weeks ago. At this rate, my share options are going to be worthless.