Lloyds offers to sell branches to placate EC – report

By Reuters Staff
August 31, 2009

LONDON, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Lloyds Banking Group has offered to sell Scottish branches of Lloyds TSB as well as its Cheltenham & Gloucester network to ease European Commission concerns over state aid and market share, reported the Sunday Times.

Lloyds and RBS, which was bailed out by the British government in the wake of the credit crunch, has to come up with restructuring plans to comply with EU antitrust regulations.

Talks between the EC, Lloyds and the British government — which has a 43 percent stake in the bank — will resume this week, although a final result is not expected “for some weeks”, the newspaper said.

A Lloyds spokesman said: “We, along with all UK banks in receipt of state aid, are working closely with HMT (UK Treasury) to demonstrate to the European Commission that Lloyds Banking Group has a strong plan to exit state aid.

“At this stage it is too early to say what the result of this review will be.”

Lloyds, Britain’s biggest retail bank, has over 3,000 retail branches across the UK, including 164 of Cheltenham & Gloucester (C&G) and 185 that are Lloyds TSB Scotland.

Earlier this month, Lloyds said it was reviewing its original decision to close the C&G network.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Lloyds was sweetening the terms of its sale of the integrated finance arm it inherited from HBOS in order to speed up the process ahead of the EU decision.

The newspaper said Lloyds was throwing in controlling stakes in the debt as well as the equity of the business, which includes stakes in cinema chain Vue Entertainment and health clubs business David Lloyd.

Over the weekend, Lloyds also announced that it was conducting a strategic review of a network of agency counters that take savings for its Halifax mortgage subsidiary.

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/