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Taxpayer stake in Lloyds Banking Group falls below 2%

The taxpayer's stake in Lloyds Banking Group has been cut to below 2% as the Government continues to sell down its shareholding in the lender.

UK Financial Investments, which manages the stake in Lloyds, cut its holding by around 1% to 1.97%, seeing the bank edge another step closer to full private ownership.

The sale means more than £20 billion has now been returned to Government coffers since the lender's £20.3 billion bailout at the height of the financial crisis.

This includes around £500 million in payouts to shareholders since the bank resumed paying dividends in 2014 as it has returned to profit growth in recent years.

The stake sale is the latest in a series by the Government, which said in October that it hoped to offload its remaining shares in Lloyds within a year, with the City expecting Lloyds to return to full private ownership by June.

The economic secretary to the treasury, Simon Kirby, said: "I welcome this further progress in returning Lloyds to the private sector. We have now recovered over £20 billion for the taxpayer and are very close to recovering all of the money taxpayers injected into the bank during the financial crisis."

All proceeds from the sales will be used to reduce the national debt.

Lloyds shares were up 0.2% in morning trading.

Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said: "The group is now very close to completing its journey back to full private ownership.

"Over the last six years the group has focused unwaveringly on returning more money to taxpayers than was originally put in, alongside delivering on our public commitment to help Britain prosper."

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