The government is seeking to line up Barclays to take over the UK unit of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) in a bid to rescue it from liquidation, the Standard has learned.
The government has also received interest from a potential Middle Eastern buyer, according to reports in the Financial Times. Meanwhile, SVB UK has been searching to find a British bank to agree an emergency sale, with the likes of Lloyds, Barclays and the Bank of London among the firms being approached, according to reports by Sky News. SVB is set to enter involuntary liquidation as soon as tomorrow without an eleventh-hour intervention.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said this morning he was holding discussions with the Prime Minister and Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey to agree a solution to avert potential widespread damage to the tech sector caused by SVB’s collapse.
“The government and the Bank understand the level of concern that this raises for customers of Silicon Valley Bank UK, and especially how it may impact on cashflow positions in the short term,” Hunt said in a statement.
“The government is working at pace on a solution to avoid or minimise damage to some of our most promising companies in the UK and we will bring forward immediate plans to ensure the short term operational and cashflow needs of Silicon Valley Bank UK customers are able to be met.”
The UK government has already favoured Barclays as a trusted tech partner, after it controversially withdrew funding from Tech Nation in favour of giving it to the high street bank in January.
The Bank of England said on Saturday morning it would place Silicon Valley Bank UK Limited into a bank insolvency procedure.
Under the procedure, depositors may be paid up to the protected limit of £85,000, or up to £170,000 for joint accounts, under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The remaining assets and liabilities will be handled by liquidators.
“SVB UK has a limited presence in the UK and no critical functions supporting the financial system,” the Bank of England said. “In the interim, the firm will stop making payments or accepting deposits.”
But scores of London tech firms have said the insured limits would not be nearly enough to even pay their staff and means they are at risk of going bust.
Matt Clifford, co-founder of venture capital business Entrepreneur First, said: “[The] most common phrase in my inbox right now is ‘we can’t make payroll with the insured amount’.”
He told the Standard: “The core question is just what happens to those who cant’t access to money they need. A bunch of them will not make payroll and a bunch of them will go under.”
On a flight to California to meet US president Joe Biden
, Rishi Sunak told reporters there was no systemic risk of contagion caused by the demise of SVB, in a bid to ease concerns over volatility in the financial sector.
“We don’t believe there is a systemic contagion risk,” Sunak said. “We’re working to recognize the anxiety and the concerns customers of the bank have and making sure we can work to find a solution that secures people’s operational liquidity and cash-flow needs.”
A Barclays spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.