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Lloyds could float branches if sale fails

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Lloyds Banking Group says it is prepared to float its 600-strong branch network currently up for sale if an auction does not attract high enough bids.

The bank says listing the branches as a separate business is a possibility if the branch sale fails.

A spokeswoman says: “The sale has always been part of what we call a ’dual-track’ process. We are obviously looking for buyers but we can do an initial public offering if we need to.

“Clearly, people are showing a great deal of interest in the branch network but we need to ensure that we achieve the maximum value for our customers and our shareholders.”

In July 2009, the European Commission ordered Lloyds to sell the branches as part of the state bailout package following the bank’s takeover of HBOS in September 2008.

Included in the branches to be sold are around 200 Cheltenham & Gloucester branches, 180 Lloyds TSB branches in Scotland and 250 Lloyds TSB bran-ches in England and Wales.

JP Morgan and Citigroup provided a £15bn loan to Lloyds in March to accelerate the start of the sale process. The two companies were appointed as joint advisers on the sale at the same time. The sale of the branches must be completed by November 2013.

AWD Chase de Vere head of communications Patrick Connolly says: “Lloyds may be saying this partly to boost the price it gets for the branches.

“The perception at the moment is that Lloyds is a forced seller, leading bidders to think they can get the branches for a cheaper price.”

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