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Lloyds Banking : UK offloads shares to cut Lloyds stake to 21.9%

03/28/2015 | 08:00am US/Eastern

The UK government has sold about £569m of shares in Lloyds Banking Group as the state continues to cut its position in the nation’s largest mortgage lender before elections in May.

The government reduced its stake to 21.9%, it said on Thursday.

The sale takes the total sold under a trading plan started in December to more than £1.5bn. At the last disposal, on March 9, the government raised £500m, trimming the stake to 22.98%.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is recovering funds from the holding in Lloyds as he tries to convince voters that his Conservative Party is best positioned to shepherd Britain’s economy.

London-based Lloyds, which received a taxpayer bail-out of more than £20bn during the financial crisis, said last month it would resume dividend payments after reporting its first annual profit in five years.

The value of the share sale was based on the closing price on Wednesday because the Treasury did not disclose the actual total.

Royal Bank of Scotland, the other major state-owned UK lender, remains unprofitable seven years after it required a £45.5bn bail-out from taxpayers. The government has not started to reduce its 80% stake.

UK Financial Investments manages the government’s holdings in nationalised lenders.

Meanwhile, the UK’s biggest lenders have agreed to minimise the effect of branch closings by providing consumers with alternative services such as free cash machines and mobile banking arrangements.

In a deal with the government and consumer groups, the banks pledged to work with local communities to establish the impact before shutting branches, according to a statement.

The UK’s largest banks — Lloyds Banking, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC Holdings — are seeking to trim costs and invest in digital systems as consumers increasingly move online.

Branch closings spark concern among legislators, facing elections in just over a month, that some consumers could be left behind.

"People are increasingly banking online, but it’s not necessarily an option for everyone," Business Secretary Vince Cable said.

"Banks have a duty to ensure that all their users and especially vulnerable customers, small businesses and those in rural communities can continue to access over-the-counter banking services."

(c) 2015 Cihan News Agency. All right reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers

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