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It’s been a bad week for UK banks after the Bank of England asked for widespread dividend suspensions leading to share price crashes.
The pressure to postpone dividend pay-outs till the end of the year is a bid to preserve cash so that banks have maximum funds available to help UK businesses weather the economic storm as a consequence of coronavirus.
As a results Barclays shares fell 12 per cent, now standing at 81.69p at the time of writing, Lloyds fell ten per cent to 28.18p and HSBC tumbled 8.5 per cent to 396.05p.
So, are any of the big banks looking a good bet for recovery just yet?
Analysts agree that the dividend suspensions were a wise choice but expect them to have a significant impact on investors. Lloyds will be particularly hard hit, having many smaller investors who were tempted by generous dividends in the first place. Russ Mould at A J Bell points out that: ‘In a twist of fate, Lloyds even announced last year that it would increase the frequency of its dividends to once a quarter from June 2020, in recognition that the vast majority of its 2.4 million shareholders were retail investors who would welcome regular payments. That carrot dangled in front of their nose has now been cruelly snatched away at the eleventh hour.’
Goldman Sachs had already slashed its earnings per share forecast,for Lloyds, reducing it by 98 per cent for 2020 and 53 per cent for 2021 “reflecting marked increase of our cost of risk forecasts”
However, some are still optimistic about Lloyds, seeing its price to earnings ratio of 6.5 times historical earnings as a good entry level opportunity.
Barclays has also been hit significantly by the dividend suspension although some analysts think the bank is one of the better-positioned for recovery. Hargreaves Lansdowne pointed out that the bank’s burgeoning investment business does not rely on interest income and its Barclaycard arm could benefit from the current economic situation. It commented about Barclays: “The investment bank should help offset some of the headwinds elsewhere in the short term – and that diversification sets it apart from some of its more UK high street focused rivals.
It’s worth noting though that Barclays share price has fallen 48 per cent in the last few weeks and as margins come under pressure due to record low interest rates and the potential for defaulted business loans increases, there will undoubtedly be some rocky times ahead for the bank.
Despite the dividend suspension though, the consensus seems to be that the banks have enough operational resilience to bounce back eventually, so could this crash represent a good entry point?
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