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Asset Protection Scheme: how it works

Dominic Laurie
Working Lunch

Alistair Darling
Alistair Darling launched the Asset Protection Scheme today.

In an era of financial record breaking, we could have another one.

RBS's leap into the government's Asset Protection Scheme is perhaps Britain's biggest ever bailout of a single company.

The scheme was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling this morning.

"We're offering insurance of about 325bn of assets - these are things like commercial loans or mortgages, which are worth less now than they were perhaps a few months ago, but which we hope will increase in value as we get through this recession,' he said at the launch.

What the scheme means

The object of this is to provide that certainty and that confidence that will maintain lending. That's essential for each and every one of us, whether it's individuals or businesses.
Alistair Darling

In practice this is how it works. RBS has identified 325bn of vulnerable assets that could go bad. They need to insure against that risk.

In the event of a financial accident, RBS shareholders take the hit for the first 19.5bn - that's the equivalent of its policy excess. Losses over that though - we don't know how much - will be born by the taxpayer, who is essentially the insurance company. The premium RBS pays taxpayers in return is 6.5bn in shares.

It's basically like a giant car insurance policy. If you go out for a drive and have a costly bad accident, you are covered by the policy.

Yes, you have to pay a fee at the beginning of the year for the policy, and the excess charges relating to a crash. But beyond that you are covered - an accident won't bankrupt you.

Encouraging lending

"The object of this is to provide that certainty and that confidence that will maintain lending," says Mr Darling. "That's essential for each and every one of us, whether it's individuals or businesses."

If these future losses never happen, the taxpayer will have got a whopping fee for no downside. But the likelihood is that for some time to come, it's taxpayers - us - who will be bankrolling RBS, not the other way round.


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