Buyers sought for HBOS arm

Lloyds TSB has begun sounding out potential buyers for an arm of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), it was reported today.

Lloyds TSB has begun sounding out potential buyers for an arm of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), it was reported today.

The company is believed to want to sell a portfolio of holdings in British companies, including Vue Cinemas and David Lloyd Leisure, the health and fitness group.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Lloyds has sought advice about HBOS’s Integrated Finance and joint venture divisions, where the bank took equity stakes in companies and provided them with loans.

Integrated Finance, which is part of the corporate division of Bank of Scotland, was set up in 2001 and accounts for around £4.5bn (€5.3bn), or around 3%, of HBOS’s corporate loan book.

It also holds approximately £1.5bn (€1.7bn) in equity stakes across 60 businesses.

Last week Lloyds TSB shareholders overwhelmingly backed the bank’s takeover bid for HBOS. They voted 96% in favour of the controversial deal at the Lloyds TSB Group general meeting in Glasgow.

They also backed plans to raise a total of £5.5bn (€6.5bn) through the issue of new shares and special preference shares to strengthen Lloyds’ balance sheet.

Competition rules have been waived to allow the merger between Lloyds and HBOS.

It is expected to be completed by January 2009, after a vote by shareholders of both banks next month.

If it gets the go-ahead, it will create a banking giant with around 145,000 staff and 3,000 branches across the UK.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Lloyd’s management believes it is unlikely that it will be able to sell the stakes in Integrated Finance before the takeover.

It said Lloyds might choose to hold on to the businesses if it cannot find parties to take on both the equity and the debt.

No one at Lloyds TSB was available to comment today and HBOS declined to make a statement.

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