Belfast Telegraph

Lloyds share sale cuts Government holding to less than 4%

The Government has reduced its stake in Lloyds Banking Group to less than 4% as the lender moves a step closer to full private ownership.

UK Financial Investments, which manages the stake in Lloyds, cut its holding by around 1%.

It means the taxpayer's stake in the bank stands at 3.89%, with more than £19 billion being returned to Government coffers since the lender's £20.3 billion bailout.

It is the latest in a series of share sales by the Government, which said in October it hoped to offload its remaining shares in Lloyds within a year.

The Government has progressively sold down its original 43% stake and Chancellor Philip Hammond ditched plans for a share sale to the public in October, opting instead to offload the holding to institutional investors.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Simon Kirby said: "Since the decision to sell the Government's stake in Lloyds we have now recovered over £19 billion for the taxpayer.

"Lloyds' strong annual results show that we are in a good position to continue to reduce our shareholding and recover all of the money the taxpayer injected into the bank during the financial crisis."

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

Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said: "We are pleased that Lloyds' strong financial performance in 2016 has enabled the Government to further sell down its stake in the bank to below 4%.

"This means over £19 billion returned to the taxpayer; and is alongside the further £2.2 billion in dividends paid to our 2.5 million shareholders, as announced yesterday."

On Wednesday, Lloyds posted its highest annual profits for a decade as it moves on from mis-selling scandals.

The lender said bottom-line profits more than doubled to £4.24 billion last year from £1.64 billion in 2015, thanks largely to lower costs of compensation for payment protection insurance (PPI).

Its profit haul is the biggest since 2006 and comes as it puts the PPI saga and taxpayer bailout behind it.