Source AP ©

Northern Rock improves situation with shares

Northern Rock shares steadied Friday, and the government is considering legislation to apply lessons learned from the crisis.

A parliamentary inquiry into the Northern Rock affair appeared to be widening Friday, as the committee's chairman John McFall said he had asked Treasury chief Alistair Darling and regulators from the Financial Services Authority to testify.

Northern Rock shares closed 4.5 percent higher at 193.5 pence (2.76 EUR; US$3.88) on the London Stock Exchange, a day after falling 28 percent.

Among other major U.K. mortgage lenders, Alliance & Leicester shares were down 2.5 percent, HBOS' were up 1.2 percent and Bradford & Bingley's were up 0.1 percent.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King told the parliamentary committee on Thursday that four interlocking pieces of legislation had prevented the bank from taking action to head off a run depositors at Northern Rock.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said the Treasury was studying the King's proposals for changes.

"Clearly these are complex issues and we need to make sure that we get any change to legislation right," said Brown's spokesman, Michael Ellam.

"Financial markets are becoming increasingly complex. There is constant innovation. The financial markets become increasingly fast-moving. So I think it is right that all of our legislation is kept under constant review."

Analysts say Northern Rock had a strong portfolio of mortgages, but so far no one has made an offer to take over the company.

Nic Clarke, an analyst at Charles Stanley & Co., said the turmoil in credit markets that ignited Northern Rock's crisis had compelled other banks to hold on to their cash rather than spending on acquisitions.

"As things stand one needs to be an optimist to believe that Northern Rock will be taken out at a significant premium to the current share price," Clarke said.

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