Government to break up the banks

Lloyds, RBS and Northern Rock will be split up in state sell-off

Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock will be broken up and parts of their businesses sold off to create three new banks, it emerged last night.

Government sources said ministers were "determined" to see more competition in the market, following the £1.2 trillion bailout of the sector which resulted in the loss of three independent banks and several building societies.

The European Union will today approve the split of Northern Rock into two sections, a "good", profitable, bank with no bad debt, and a "bad" bank. Ministers will begin exploring sale options at the start of next year when the split happens and a deal could be finalised before the general election. The remaining "bad" bank will remain in state hands for the time being although sales of "tranches" of the more risky mortgages it holds will be explored in the longer term.

The Lloyds and RBS sell-offs will follow over the next three to five years and will be supervised by UK Financial Investments, the government body set up to oversee taxpayers' investment in the banks.

The Government is understood to have made clear that existing larger operators will be banned from participating in the sales.

Ministers want to drive competition in a sector they believe is too concentrated in the hands of the "Big Four" of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS. Virgin Money is known to be watching the situation closely and is in talks to add former Northern Rock chairman Bryan Sanderson to its board ahead of a possible bid for Northern Rock.

Tesco is another company that could be enticed into an auction as it seeks to grow its financial services business.

Spain's Banco Santander, which owns Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and part of Bradford & Bingley, may be allowed to get involved because it is significantly smaller than the big banking groups in Britain. But it could still be frustrated by the Government's determination to attract new entrants.

"We are keen to see greater competition in the banking sector as soon as possible," said a government source.

A deal to buy "good" Northern Rock would bring a new entrant around £20bn of deposits together with a portfolio of low-risk mortgages and a platform to expand operations that remain concentrated in the North-east nationwide.

Lloyds is expected to face a forced reduction in its share of the retail banking market from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, with the disposal of more than a seventh of its 3,000 branches expected.

It has been desperately seeking support in the City for a share issue of up to £15bn to keep it out of the Government's asset protection scheme that will cover it against losses from up to £260bn of risky loans.

But even if Lloyds can achieve this, it will be forced to sell parts of itself as a consequence of the Government's injection of nearly £15bn to recapitalise the bank at the height of the financial crisis. That will be seen as a blow to Eric Daniels, chief executive, who indicated at the bank's recent results that he did not expect to make significant disposals. A spokesman said: "We continue to work with European regulators."

Royal Bank of Scotland, meanwhile, is working on plans to sell off a "couple of hundred" branches, including RBS branded outlets in the UK and NatWest's Scottish branches. It is certain to join the government scheme although how much will be protected is not yet certain.

Final details on the Lloyds and RBS disposals are set to be announced alongside details of the asset protection scheme.

But an indication of the EU's "get tough" approach came on Monday when ING, which owns the ING Direct savings bank in Britain, said it would split itself in two to satisfy watchdogs unhappy at its bailout by the Dutch government.

Britain's banking sector was further consolidated on Monday with the announcement by Barclays of a deal to buy Standard Life Bank.

Government sources said that while the new banks would be relatively small compared with the big four, they hoped they would prove fast moving and innovative.

The effect Standard Life Bank had on the market when it was launched has been noted, although its activities were constrained by the credit crunch.

The Government currently has a stake of 70.34 per cent in Royal Bank of Scotland and 43.44 per cent in Lloyds. That gives ministers the whip hand over both banks. They are expected to take up the taxpayers' "rights" when Lloyds launches its share issue to maintain the size of its investment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones