Lloyds Banking Group could be fully returned to private hands within the next year, chairman Norman Blackwell said at the company’s annual meeting yesterday.
The British government has already sold nearly half of the 41% stake it took as a result of its £20bn (€27.7bn) rescue of the bank during the 2007-09 financial crisis, raising over £10bn for the UK taxpayer.
It is continuing to sell the shares to financial institutions, such as pension funds and insurers, and is also planning a sale to private retail investors later in the year.
Asked if the government could complete its exit in the next year, Mr Blackwell told reporters: “It’s possible and would be very desirable. Whether the government can achieve that depends on the market conditions.”
Mr Blackwell told shareholders at the meeting that the bank may consider other ways of returning capital to shareholders in the future, having announced its first dividend for six-and-a-half years in February.
He also confirmed the bank planned to announce a dividend alongside both its half-year and full-year results this year. “The resumption reflects the transformation of the business over the past four years,” he said.
In the medium term, Lloyds has said it plans to return at least 50% of its sustainable earnings to shareholders. That could include extra one-off dividends or buying back the bank’s shares.
“Going forward we will think about all the options open to us if we’re in the wonderful position of having excess capital,” Mr Blackwell told the meeting.
Lloyds also said 97.67% of shareholders at its annual meeting approved its pay plan for 2014, avoiding a significant revolt over the issue.
Shareholder advisory group Pirc had recommended shareholders should reject the bank’s remuneration policy, saying pay for chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio was “highly excessive”.
Mr Horta-Osorio, who was handed a package worth £11.5m in 2014, told the meeting the bank was well-placed to benefit from the continued strength of Britain’s economy, enabling it to return value to shareholders.
“I’m not concerned if he’s delivering. If he wasn’t delivering then it would be a different story,” an individual shareholder told Reuters.
Earlier this week, the British Government sold another £500m worth of shares in Lloyds. The Treasury said on Tuesday that it had reduced its stake by a further 1 percentage point to 19.93%, days after the surprise election triumph for the Conservatives sent the bank’s shares soaring to multi-year highs.
UK Financial Investments, which manages the shareholding, began selling Lloyds shares to institutional investors such as pension funds and insurers in September 2013.
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