Lloyds mulls closure of Halifax counters

But the group hotly denies claims that it could close high-street branches

Lloyds Banking Group is considering the closure of several hundred Halifax agency counters, but furiously denies claims that it has plans to shut high-street branches.

The company insists that all options are still open as it grapples with European regulators and the details of its participation in the Government's Asset Protection Scheme (APS).

Halifax – which was subsumed by Lloyds Banking Group as part of the ill-fated HBOS takeover brokered by the Government last September – includes 300 counters in estate agencies, solicitors' practices and financial advisors' offices which offer limited services such as paying in and withdrawal of money, and are operated under licence by a third party.

Some 26 counter outlets are already scheduled for closure in September and October, but as the company seeks to reduce its reliance on the taxpayer the network as a whole is under assessment. But Lloyds hotly denies claims from a "deep throat" sources that the group has a plan – codenamed Project Tulip – which could see 500 of Halifax's high street branches closed down.

"A strategic review of the remaining third-party agency counters is underway – no decisions have therefore been taken," a spokesman for Lloyds said yesterday. "Contrary to recent reports, the 3,000 Lloyds Banking Group bank branches are not included in this review. Bank branches are a core and very important part of the group's retail banking model and will continue to be so. Agency counters are not Halifax branches."

The decision about Halifax counters comes against a backdrop of two tricky issues for Lloyds. On one hand, the European Commission is threatening to make the group sell some assets in order for the Lloyds/HBOS merger to pass state-aid and competition rules. The bank is already in the process of selling HBOS's integrated finance arm, which holds stakes in high-profile businesses including the Vue Entertainment cinema chain and David Lloyd Leisure, the gym group.

And there are reports the company may now be sweetening the deal with the inclusion of the assets' debt as well as their equity in an attempt to speed up the sale and head off a European Commission ruling.

Lloyds is also rumoured to be offering to sell two of its regional networks – Scotland's 185 Lloyds TSB branches and 164 Cheltenham & Gloucesters – as a concession to Europe. But the company will make no official comment on the issue. "We are working closely with the Treasury to demonstrate to the Commission that Lloyds has a strong plan to exit state aid," the spokesman said. "At this stage it is too early to say what the result of this review will be."

Lloyds is also embroiled in manoeuvring over its entry into the UK Government's APS – the insurance scheme to help put a floor under banks' bad debts. Under terms set out in principle in March, Lloyds is to put £260bn into the scheme, for which it will pay a £15.6bn premium to the Government and absorb the first £25bn-worth of losses. The Government already owns 43 per cent of the group, but the share issuance needed to raise the premium will push the public stake to 77 per cent.

After last month's half-year numbers recorded a loss of "only" £4bn – compared with the £5bn widely predicted – the group is understood to be looking for ways to reduce its participation in the scheme. The speculation in the City is that it will pursue a rights issue to raise extra capital, but there are also rumours that the company is looking at issuing a convertible bond.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
propertyfilmReview: It's the sheer nastiness of the Riot Club that takes you aback, says Geoffrey Macnab

Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Audit Manager Central Functions

To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

Credit Risk Audit Manager

Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week