January 16, 2019 / 9:58 AM / 6 months ago

British banks soldier on through enduring Brexit impasse

Traders work on the trading floor of Barclays Bank at Canary Wharf in London, Britain December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) - British banks swerved heavy share price losses in early trading on Wednesday, hours after a parliamentary vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal returned the most blistering defeat for a UK government in almost a century.

State-backed Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) enjoyed rises of 1.7 percent and 1.4 percent respectively, while Barclays (BARC.L) and HSBC (HSBA.L) saw stocks up by 0.7 percent each by 0909 GMT.

Analysts said risks of further deadlock were already priced into bank shares during the lengthy hiatus since the originally planned vote which the prime minister suspended in December.

The modest rises suggest momentum is building behind a ‘Plan B’ compromise, according to some investors including David Roberts, co-manager on the Liontrust Strategic Bond fund.

“Global investors now believe the chances of a ‘hard’ economically damaging Brexit have receded ... There is still a long way to go, but hopes of a mutually beneficial solution are growing,” he said.

Opponents to May’s deal have honed in on several elements, including the Irish “backstop” and fears of a so-called “divorce bill” that could run to 39 billion pounds ($50.2 billion).

While bank shareholders shrugged off the latest drama at Westminster, Lloyds separately announced a commitment to lend 18 billion pounds to established UK firms and start-ups during 2019 in its latest effort to shore up business sentiment.

“During these uncertain times, it is important that our customers have financial support and expert guidance to navigate the challenges they may face,” Chief Executive Antonio Horta Osorio said in a statement.

“Whatever the future brings, we will continue to support UK businesses as part of our commitment to help Britain prosper.”

Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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