UK finance bonuses to plummet as London loses ground

LONDON Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:21am GMT

People walk past a map in the financial district in the City of London May 24, 2012.REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

People walk past a map in the financial district in the City of London May 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Bonuses for London's financial sector workers for 2012 will tumble to 1.6 billion pounds, down more than half from a year ago, after a drop-off in dealmaking and a public backlash over high pay, a study showed on Monday.

The handouts will keep falling until 2015, the Centre for Economics and Business Research said. Meanwhile, employment in London's finance industry, known as the City, will also keep shrinking, allowing rival centre Hong Kong to overtake London by size in the next three years, the CEBR added in a separate note.

Banking job cuts have hit London hard in the past three years as euro zone woes and regulation eat into firms' income, and a further slowdown in stock trading and mergers and acquisitions is expected affect pay levels for 2012.

Bonuses for 2012 - likely to be paid in January or February next year - will be more than 86 percent down on the 11.5 billion pounds worth of payouts from 2007, when dealmaking was booming just before the financial crisis, the CEBR data showed.

Public outrage over big bonuses, after several UK banks, including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), were bailed out in the 2008 financial crisis, has also forced firms to keep a lid on payouts - though base salaries have since risen.

The CEBR, which had originally forecast bonuses of 2.3 billion pounds for 2012, predicted they would hit a low of 1.2 billion in 2015, before gently creeping back upwards.

Last year's bonuses came in at 4.4 billion pounds, it said.

"The biggest loser from this is the taxman, who typically earns more from City bonuses than the employees," CEBR Chief Executive Douglas McWilliams said in a statement.

McWilliams said government revenues from the City - including corporation tax and other levies too - would likely be around 40 billion pounds for 2012, down almost by half from the 70 billion banked in 2007/08.

In a separate study, the CEBR also forecast that Hong Kong would overtake London as the world's biggest international financial centre in 2015, as Asian markets grow.

Hong Kong employed less than half as many people in financial services than London in 2005, but job numbers in the Asian hub will have grown by almost 100,000 in the next three years.

Meanwhile London's City will continue to shed jobs, with another 13,000 set to go next year.

Technically, London is already behind New York by finance employment levels, but the CEBR said many of the New York jobs were focused on servicing the domestic U.S. economy, meaning that for now London retains its crown as the top international centre.

Hong Kong has gained ground primarily because of more dynamic growth in Asian economies, the CEBR said, while the growing use of China's renminbi as a currency worldwide will also boost it as a centre.

(Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Richard Chang)

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