The public is to be offered cut-price shares in Lloyds Banking Group as the government moves to complete the sale of its stake in the bailed-out bank more than eight years after the financial crisis.
The public is already able to buy Lloyds shares on the stock market, but the Treasury plans to sell the £2bn stake at a discount of 5%. Investors who hold their shares for a year will be given a bonus share for every 10 held, with the bonus capped at £200 per investor. People applying for less than £1,000 of shares will be given priority.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference, George Osborne said: “It is the biggest privatisation for 20 years.” The chancellor said the proceeds would be used to pay down the national debt.
In a stock market announcement, the Treasury said: “It is the government’s intention to fully exit from its Lloyds shareholding in the coming months, and as part of this at least £2bn of shares will be sold to retail investors.”
Lloyds already has more private investors than any other company on the stock market – around 2.7m – following its takeover of HBOS at the height of the banking crisis. HBOS owned Halifax, the former building society.
The share sale comes just days after the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, announced a deadline for claims for payment protection insurance (PPI), a move that consumer groups said was motivated at helping the Lloyds sale.
Lloyds has set aside more than £13bn to tackle claims for half of the 16 million customers to whom it sold PPI in the past 15 years. It has sold more PPI policies than any other bank – it has half the entire industry’s bill of £26bn. When the limit on PPI claims to spring 2018 was announced, Martin Lewis, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com, said: “The question must be asked: is this due to pressure from George Osborne to protect Lloyds Bank which has most to lose from continued payouts?”
The sale is also being announced ahead of a Competition and Markets Authority review into competition in the banking sector, which could signal a breakup of the big banks. Lloyds has a 25% market share of current accounts, more than any other bank. The CMA is due to publish its preliminary findings in a fortnight.
The sell-down of the Lloyds stake is in stark contrast to Royal Bank of Scotland, in which the government still has a stake of about 73% after selling off shares for the first time in August.
Lloyds shares were up almost 1% after Osborne spoke, to 77p. The taxpayer breaks even on its stake at 73.6p.
This article was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th October 2015 12.27 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010