Belfast Telegraph

Chancellor in 'Tell Sid' style push for the public to buy Lloyds shares

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Members of the public will be able to participate in a multi-billion pound 'Tell Sid' style sale of the taxpayer stake in Lloyds Banking Group after a timetable for the move was confirmed by the Treasury.

The Government said it planned to launch a share sale open to retail investors within the next 12 months - following a previous pledge by Chancellor George Osborne.

It fuelled speculation that the sale would take place next March after the completion in December of a current trading plan to sell down the Treasury's stake, and following publication of the group's 2015 annual financial results.

The current plan, a gradual sale of stock into the market launched last December, has seen the taxpayer's holding in the bailed-out group cut from 25% to less than 19% today, raising £3.5bn.

It had been due to finish on June 30 but has been extended until December 31 after being hailed a "huge success" by the Chancellor. This is likely to see the taxpayer stake reduced by a similar amount again.

The announcement came after the latest statutory stock market disclosure on the Treasury's Lloyds holding, as it fell to 18.99%.

The Treasury said that during the trading plan so far shares have been sold for an average price of over 80p, well above the average 73.6p originally paid for them.

It said it had now recovered more than £10.5bn from the bank - which was rescued by taxpayers at the height of the financial crisis.

"As part of its plan to return Lloyds to the private sector, the Government will launch a share sale which will be open to retail investors in the next 12 months. Further details will be set out in due course," the Treasury said.

The plans revive memories of Government sell-offs of the 1980s such as the British Gas offer promoted by the 'Tell Sid' advertising campaign.

Mr Osborne has previously set out plans to sell £9bn of Lloyds shares during 2015/16, including about £4bn through a discounted offer to retail investors.

He said: "The trading plan has been a huge success, with almost £3.5bn raised for the taxpayer so far.

"This means we have now recovered over £10.5bn in total - more than half of the taxpayers' money put into Lloyds - and we now own under 19% of the bank. But we're determined to get on with the job of returning Lloyds to private ownership.

"That's why I'm extending the plan six months so we can make even more progress in returning money to the taxpayer and paying down the national debt."

A Lloyds spokesman said: "This announcement shows the further progress made in returning Lloyds Banking Group to full private ownership and enabling the taxpayer to get their money back.

"This reflects the hard work undertaken over the last four years to transform the group into a simple, low-risk and customer-focused bank that is committed to helping Britain prosper."

Lloyds shares rose by 1%.

Belfast Telegraph