Decision nears on Lloyds branches

Lloyds is in the final stages of reviewing offers from NBNK and the Co-Op for around 630 of its branches. The part-nationalised bank is expected to hold a board meeting on Thursday to discuss a final decision over the branch sell-off, which has been code-named Project Verde.

Lloyds has been forced to sell the branches by European competition regulators to compensate for it having been bailed out by the Government during the credit crisis. The auction also comes at a tricky time for the lender, with its chief executive, Antonio Horta-Osorio, on sick leave.

Analysts and investors have been evenly split between what they feel will be the eventual outcome: a sale to the newly set up NBNK, which is led by the former Northern Rock boss Gary Hoffman and one-time Lloyd's of London chairman Lord Levene; a sale to Co-Operative Financial Services; or a decision to spin-off the branches into a new company that could be listed. REUTERS