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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee