UK government sets out Lloyds share plans

Sold Sign

George Osborne is to press on with selling off the taxpayers’ stake in Lloyds Banking Group after recouping £10.5bn for the exchequer through a series of disposals in the last 18 months.

A programme of drip feeding shares in to the market - which was due to finish at the end of the month - is being extended to the end of the year, while some shares are being earmarked for sale to retail investors in the next 12 months.

The chancellor set out his plans for Lloyds as the taxpayer stake fell below 19% after another tranche of shares were sold into the market. The stake stood at 43% after the 2008 bailout when £20bn was pumped into Lloyds and HBOS, the ailing bank it rescued at the height of the crisis.

Osborne is yet to set out proposals for the disposal of the 79% stake in Royal Bank of Scotland, although he is expected to use his Mansion House speech next week to sketch out how he intends to begin the first sell off the shares since the 2008 bailout. In the run up to the general election Osborne had signalled his intention to kick start a disposal programme for RBS early in this parliament.

“There are constraints around it, but it’s certainly something I would want to get moving on in the summer after the election. I would want to see a review on a plan for disposal,” Osborne said in March.

The remaining stake in Lloyds had also featured in election campaigning. In April, David Cameron had said small investors would be able to buy up to £4bn of Lloyds bank shares at a discount. At the time, the prime minister had said there would be a a “loyalty bonus” of one additional free share for every 10 shares investors still held after a year .

No such detail was provided on Monday when the Treasury stated there would be a retail offering for investors, a pledge it has made on numerous occasions. The announcement followed the pledge by Osborne in his budget in March to sell off another £9bn of shares in Lloyds in the next 12 months.

Osborne first sold shares in Lloyds in September 2013 and again in March 2014 through placings with institutional investors but in December he initiated a trading plan to dripfeed shares into the market for six months, which has now been extended to the end of the year.

“We’re determined to get on with the job of returning Lloyds to private ownership. That’s why I’m extending the plan for six months so that we can make even more progress in returning money to the taxpayer and paying down the national debt,” said Osborne.

Lloyds shares were trading at 88p on Monday - above the 73.6p average price at which taxpayers bought the stake. The chancellor reiterated on Monday that shares would not be sold below this price.

But shares in RBS were trading at 343p - below the 502p average price at which taxpayers bought the stake. They are also below the 407p price published by the government in March 2013 as the average at which the shares were trading when they bought, rather than the actual prices paid. Any review on a disposal programme would likely consider what price might be acceptable to begin a sell-off.

Powered by article was written by Jill Treanor, for on Monday 1st June 2015 13.52 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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