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Britain offloads Lloyds stake

LONDON

British bank Lloy-ds, bailed-out by the UK government at the height of the financial crisis, said on Wednesday that it had returned to full private ownership.

“Lloyds Banking Group has… notified the market that the government’s stake in the group has been reduced to zero; as such, the group has returned to full private ownership,” it said in a statement.

The government had been steadily offloading its stake as LBG recovered, resulting in $27.4 billion returning to the taxpayer.

This is £894 million more than the government’s initial investment, including more than
£400 million in dividend payouts, Lloyds said Wednesday.

“Today the government has sold its last shares in Lloyds Banking Group, receiving more money than was originally invested,” said LBG chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio.

“Thanks to the hard work of everyone at Lloyds, we’ve turned the group around.” The British government bailed out Lloyds following the 2008 world financial crisis at a cost of £20.3 billion, handing the state a 43-per cent stake in the bank.

The government still owns 73 per cent of Royal Bank of Scotland, which was rescued with £45.5 billion of taxpayers’ cash during the crisis in the world’s biggest bank bailout.

“RBS still casts a long shadow over the banking bailout… seeing as the taxpayer funding package was twice as big,” said Laith Khalaf, analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Progress has been slower at RBS because it had more problems to start with, and it’s difficult to see how the government can realistically sell off its… stake in the bank without taking a financial hit.”

On the London stock exchange, shares in LBGrose 0.8 per cent to 70.69 pence in early deals on the benchmark FTSE 100 index, which was 0.3-per cent higher overall.

Agencies