Shares of Metro Bank Plc, the British bank founded by Moorestown real estate and financial mogul Vernon Hill, lost a whopping 37 percent of their value in trading Wednesday, dropping from 2,200 British pounds to 1,388, after the company admitted it had underreported the risk of its commercial mortgage loans.
The stock rebounded modestly Thursday, trading around 1,480 pounds, up 10 percent, but remained far below its recent averages and has a market value far less than the $3 billion it was worth when it sold shares to the public in a 2016 initial public offering.
Metro chief executive Craig Donaldson warned investors Wednesday that the company has had to double the risk-weighting of its commercial mortgage portfolio, which could slow growth unless the company raises more money from investors.
Donaldson blamed Metro’s failure to account for risk under standard U.K. banking practices for more than the last year as "a misinterpretation of the rules,” according to Bloomberg. Donaldson added that the restatement should not affect the bank’s reported profits, and Metro has hired an accounting firm to review what went wrong.
The bank reported profits totaled around $65 million before taxes last year, below the $75 million-plus expected by analysts polled by Bloomberg. Metro, backed by Hill and a transatlantic list of fellow real estate investors (Steven A. Cohen, Bruce Toll, Richard LeFrak, Ken Moelis), in its early years chose a strategy of rapid expansion of its service-oriented branch banking network, at a time when rivals like Santander Bank have been shutting branches as more people bank by phone.
Metro’s growth, at a time when England has been starved for business success stories, has made Hill and his wife and design partner, Shirley, celebrities in London, their second home. Hill is also chairman of Philadelphia-based Republic First Bancorp, which has followed a similar strategy.
A few large banks also are adding U.S. branches. JPMorgan Chase & Co. officials plan to hold a grand opening for their Rittenhouse Square outpost in Philadelphia next week, and CEO Jamie Dimon says he will add 50 branches in the Philadelphia area and hundreds of strategic locations in other new markets over the next five years, in an attempt to sell more investments and financial services to the bank’s millions of credit card holders and mortgage borrowers.
But as customers do more business remotely, major lenders including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, TD, and PNC have mostly been closing and consolidating offices in an attempt to cut costs.