HSBC buys Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) UK for £1

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It wasn’t just Washington that scrambling to deal with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank

Officials in the U.K. conducted all-night talks between Sunday and Monday in a last-ditch effort to find a buyer for SVB’s British unit, announcing that HSBC would take over the bank with just an hour to spare before markets opened.

The U.K.’s rescue deal is the most extreme example of how SVB’s global reach is forcing governments globally to pledge to stablize markets and protect local startups in the biggest collapse of a U.S. bank since 2008.

After the Bank of England said it would seek to start insolvency proceedings for the U.K. unit of SVB on Friday, officials scrambled to negotiate a sale of the local subsidiary and avoid a direct intervention to protect customers.

On Monday morning, the country’s chancellor of the exchequer took to Twitter to announce that there was a buyer: HSBC. The British bank said in a statement that it was buying SVB’s British unit for the grand total of £1 ($1.21).

Hunt said on Twitter that depositors would be protected, with no cost to taxpayers.

Members of the U.K. startup community had called on the government to take more aggressive action to save the bank. Over 250 tech executives wrote to Hunt on Saturday describing SVB’s collapse as an “existential threat” to the country’s tech sector, reports Reuters

British startups even pointed to the U.S. response to SVB, announced on Sunday, to encourage officials to do more, with one association representing startups calling Washington’s response the “bar” London needed to reach. 

Hunt had earlier pledged to help startups meet payroll and other cash flow obligations in the event that their SVB accounts were frozen.

Canada

The U.K. is not the only country experiencing the effects of SVB’s collapse.

Also on Sunday, Canada’s banking regulator took temporary control of SVB’s Canadian unit, and said it would seek to wind up the bank’s operations. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions said it took action to protect SVB’s creditors. Unlike in the U.S., the bank’s Canadian arm did not take deposits. 

Still, Canadian startups, like their U.S. counterparts, risk having their accounts frozen due to SVB’s collapse. One such firm, the adtech provider AcuityAds Holdings, said that 90% of its cash was tied up in SVB deposits. 

China

Silicon Valley Bank was also an important partner for many Chinese startups. The bank was one of the first foreign institutions to serve the Chinese tech sector, and Chinese founders joined to also take advantage of networking opportunities through the bank. 

SVB has a joint venture with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. On Saturday, the joint venture said it “has always operated in a stable manner in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations, with a standard governance framework and independent balance sheet,” in a statement on WeChat, according to the South China Morning Post.

Yet it’s not clear that the now-failed U.S. bank can remain a partner in the joint venture given its collapse, according to the Financial Times

Over a dozen Hong Kong-listed companies shared that they had deposits in SVB in exchange filings on Sunday. On Monday, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de facto central bank, said it was monitoring the situation while saying the city’s banking system could withstand SVB’s collapse. 

Even countries without a Silicon Valley Bank presence are paying close attention to its collapse. The Bank of Korea said Monday that it was ready to stabilize the country’s equity and currency markets for any SVB-related fallout. 

The U.S. response

On Sunday, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it would protect all deposits at Silicon Valley Bank, including those that breached normal limits for U.S. deposit insurance. Depositors would be able to access their accounts on Monday, officials said. 

The Federal Reserve promised similar protections for depositors at Signature Bank, a New York-based bank that also failed over the weekend.

The Federal Reserve also announced a new lending program allowing banks to borrow money from the central bank using bonds and other securities—priced at par, rather than market value—as collateral.

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