UK: Rising cost of branch spin-off takes shine off leap in profits at Lloyds Banking Group
- Credit: PA
LLOYDS Banking Group today revealed that the bill for offloading more than 600 branches under the TSB brand is likely to reach £1.3billion following last week’s collapse of a deal with the Co-operative Group.
The taxpayer-backed lender said the costs of the branch spin-off were already near £1bn and would rise by up to another £300million as it presses ahead with a flotation for the middle of 2014, if it can gain European Commission approval to extend a year-end deadline.
However, shares in the group, which is 39% owned by the Government, jumped 5% higher after it also reported a better-than-expected leap in first quarter underlying profits to £1.5bn from £497m a year earlier and said lending had returned to growth thanks to stronger business borrowing.
Lloyds profits were boosted by bad debts plunging by 40% to £1bn and by costs being slashed by another 6%.
The group said it was ramping up cost-cutting efforts by another £200m this year under a programme that has already seen more than 8,800 jobs cut, including nearly 1,900 in the first quarter alone.
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It said the extra savings would be made across the business, but were not expected to lead to further job losses on top of those already planned.
Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said the group had made “substantial progress” in the first three months of the year, with lending to businesses boosted by the Government and Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS).
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Net lending to small businesses grew by 4%, while its overall commercial loan book returned to growth earlier than planned, although Lloyds said net mortgage lending was not expected to start increasing until the third quarter as it continues to shrink its home loan business.
Lloyds also said complaints relating to payment protection insurance (PPI) had dropped by 28% since the end of last year, to around 15,000 a week and were expected to continue falling.
But it is counting the cost of the branch disposal programme, required to meet European Union rules on state aid, with mooted returns of around £1bn from a flotation likely to be wiped out by nearly £1.3bn in costs of separating and listing the business.
The sale to the Co-operative, for a reported £750m, collapsed last Wednesday after the mutual walked away, saying the deal was not in the best interests of its customers.
Mr Horta-Osorio also played down speculation over Government plans to sell its stake in the bank, saying that Lloyds was not currently in discussions with the Treasury.
Shares are now close to the 61p average price paid by the Government during the bank’s bailout in 2008.
Mr Horta-Osorio said on presenting annual results last month that he has requested for a potential £1.5m bonus to be linked to the taxpayer bailout price being achieved and the award will only pay out if the Government has sold at least a third of its stake above 61p.