Lloyds starts countdown to TSB sale as profits rise

Treasury sold £4.2 billion of Lloyds shares in March cutting its stake to 24.9%

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The Independent Online

Lloyds is poised to launch the share sell-off of its £1.5bn TSB offshoot in the next eight weeks as both banks benefit from the reviving economy.

As Nationwide reported that house prices have risen 10.2 per cent over the past year – the fastest growth since 2007 – Lloyds’ chief executive, Antonio Horta-Osorio, said he was not worried about a housing bubble leaving the bank over-exposed.

 “We have basically two geographic areas, London and the South-east, where prices have been increasing significantly,” he explained. “But a significant proportion of transactions are cash.

Then you have the wider UK where we have done 80 per cent of our Help to Buy mortgages. Prices there are beginning to rise faster than inflation but are still well below 2007 levels. Consumers are continuing to repay mortgages and we think the net stock of mortgages will increase from 0.7  per cent last year to 2 per cent this year. That is in line with inflation, which is good.”

Mr Horta-Osorio said for the first time that Lloyds wants to sell “a minimum of 25 per cent” of TSB and that, market conditions permitting, this will include a retail offer. TSB left the stock market in 1995 when it became part of Lloyds. Its sell-off was ordered by Brussels following Lloyds’ £20bn taxpayer bailout. A prospectus could come late this month, with the share sale running through June.

The Treasury sold £4.2bn of Lloyds shares at 75.5p in March, cutting its stake to  24.9 per cent. It has a 90-day lock-in, to 23 June, before it can sell more shares, but Mr Horta-Osorio said it was “always co-operative with the Government” over further sales.

Lloyds’ headline profits grew 22 per cent to £1.8bn in the first three months of the year, reflecting a growing loan book, lower bad debt write- offs and lower costs. There were also no extra charges for mis-selling. The shares rose  6 per cent to 79.5p.