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
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas