Why are we waiting? No, not for the Royal Mail, a privatisation that has made the gestation period of an elephant look rushed, but for the sale of a slice of HMG’s 39 per cent stake in Lloyds Banking. Last week the Office of Fair Trading rubber-stamped the deal to sell the TSB, the last thing in the way. The mails may be totemic, but the Lloyds shares will bring in serious money, and could be done before lunchtime tomorrow.

A placing of 10 per cent would raise over £5bn, and leave the state with nearly 30 per cent, enough to allow an imaginative offer in the future, should anyone think of one, while signalling that the government is serious about getting out of banking. The placing price, even at a small discount to the current 75.5p a share, would allow the Chancellor to boast that he’d made a profit on our investment.

Many big funds have been happily underweight in bank stocks, watching the crisis unfold. Collapsing prices automatically turned the holdings into an insignificant part of portfolios. In the last year however, the more apocalyptic forecasts have been proved unfounded, and bank analysts are making plausible profit projections, with the prospect of paying two-thirds of those profits in dividends.

The resulting recovery in bank share prices – Lloyds has doubled in a year – has embarrassed those funds measuring themselves against the trackers, so a placing of government stock presents a neat way to get back to a comfortable weighting. However, the opportunity may not last long.

The £6bn Barclays rights issue is meandering to market, and Lloyds itself will be offering shares in TSB. The question of how much proper capital a bank needs remains unresolved (although the likely answer is: “more”) and dearer money will trigger trouble for the “delay and pray” borrowers who can’t repay capital even at today’s interest rates.

The eternal rule in markets is that when the ducks are quacking, you should feed them. George Osborne please note.

Performance cars

If that old banger in the garage has a Ferrari badge under the rats’ nests and chicken poop, then you may be the proud owner of one of the best performing assets of the last decade. Knight Frank, presumably bored with being a mere estate agent, released its latest luxury investment index last week, and notes that top end classic cars on the HAGI Index have risen in value by 430 per cent, outpacing everything else in the KF index over one, five and 10 years.

Your car will have gone up in value even faster if you haven’t fiddled around with it, since there’s a whole sub-culture in deciding what is maintenance and what is (ugh) replacement or (even worse) modification. As in most of these luxury “alternative asset” classes, rarity and condition are rewarded by the buyers who have made enough elsewhere to indulge their fantasies. You might pick up one of the 160 Ferrari GT Short Wheelbase Berlinettas that were built between 1960 and 1962 for £3m, but one with an illustrious history on the track could fetch over £10m.

These are big numbers, prompting observers to wonder whether the market isn’t getting somewhat supercharged. On the Tuesday a small cloud, no bigger than a motoring glove, appeared in RM‘s auction room. Lots 248, 250 and 251, the highlight of the sale, stalled. Lord Laidlaw‘s 1955 D-type Jaguar, which some expected to fetch £6m, failed to sell at £4m.

It’s possible that the buyers’ wives didn’t like the colour (blue), or that they considered the weather unsuitable for open-top motoring, but it might mean, as they say in the advertisements for managed funds, that past performance is not a guide to the future, however hot the performance of the cars themselves.

Can you hear me, mother?

Barclays is running an ad campaign pointing out that ears are useful things. Long, long ago, Midland branded itself the Listening Bank, but when one of its managers (they had them, then) locked a client in the office and went home, it was quickly dubbed the Cloth-eared Bank. And there may still be someone left at Barclays who can remember what became of the poor old Midland…

This is my FT column from last Saturday