New era begins as UK government sells off final shares in Lloyds

People walk past a branch of Lloyds Bank on Oxford Street in London.
People walk past a branch of Lloyds Bank on Oxford Street in London. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain has sold its last remaining stake in Lloyds Banking Group, making the lender the first to re-emerge from British state ownership in a symbolic step for the country's recovering banking sector.

The sale draws a line under one of the largest bailouts from the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. This involved Lloyds, Britain's biggest retail lender, being rescued after an ill-fated government-brokered takeover of rival HBOS.

"Six years ago we inherited a business that was in a very fragile financial condition," Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio, who joined the bank in 2011, said in a statement on Wednesday (May 17). "Thanks to the hard work of everyone at Lloyds, we've turned the group around."

The takeover of HBOS in 2008 caused Lloyds to suffer more than £25 billion (S$45 billion) in losses, with the bailout leaving the government with a 43 per cent state shareholding.

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Lloyds said in a statement that the government will make a profit of about £900 million, having spent more than £20 billion rescuing the bank.