Lloyds Banking Group has ended its exclusivity agreement with the Co-operative Group over the sale of its 632 bank branches.
Co-op entered into exclusive talks with the state-backed bank over the sale in December although doubts over the deal surfaced when the Co-op admitted there were “economic and regulatory” hurdles in the way of the sale.
Co-op is still LBG’s preferred bidder for the branches, known as project Verde, but the talks are no longer exclusive.
Last month, NBNK Investments, chaired by former Lloyds chairman Peter Levene, submitted a revised proposal for the branches. NBNK previously lost out to Co-op in the race for the branches.
The European Commission forced LBG to sell the branches by November 2013 after it was bailed out by the Government.
A Lloyds statement, published last week, says: “The group continues to have productive and meaningful discussions with the Co-operative, its preferred buyer for the Verde business.
“However, LBG is no longer holding these discussions under an exclusivity agreement. Given the renewed interest in the Verde business shown by NBNK, LBG will now consider detailed discussions with other parties.”
Your Mortgage Decisions director Dominik Lipnicki says: “The Co-op would have been the ideal choice as it would be good to have a mutual of that size in the market. It is worrying it has suffered this setback and there are very few interested parties.”