Jan 12, 2009

Business - British state to own 43% of new Lloyds banking giant

LONDON: The British government will own 43 per cent of the merged banking group formed by Lloyds TSB and HBOS after private investors shunned a new
share issue by the crisis-hit lenders, they said Monday.

HBOS and Lloyds TSB, which will form banking giant Lloyds Banking Group, said that their shareholders had snubbed their multi-billion-pound rights issues, meaning the government had stepped in to buy the shares.

"As with the Lloyds TSB placing, HM Treasury will acquire the remaining HBOS shares for which valid acceptances have not been received from HBOS shareholders," the two banks said in a statement.

"As a result ... it is expected that on completion of the proposed acquisition of HBOS, HM Treasury will own approximately 43.4 percent of the enlarged issued ordinary share capital of the newly named Lloyds Banking Group plc as at 19 January 2008."

In addition, the British government has also invested an extra 4.0 billion pounds in the two banks in return for preference shares.

In November, a similar failed recapitalisation led the British government to take an almost 60 percent stake in stricken Royal Bank of Scotland.

Lloyds TSB agreed last year to buy HBOS in a deal worth 9.8 billion pounds (14.6 billion dollars, 10.9 billion euros) after its target was left facing collapse owing to massive exposure to the US subprime mortgage crisis.

Lloyds Banking Group will begin trading next week following an expected court approval in Edinburgh later today.

Both HBOS and Lloyds TSB have struggled to raise the new funds from shareholders to boost finances hit by the global credit crunch.

The new share offerings, or rights issues, were mostly snubbed by investors because their actual share prices have slumped dramatically since the plans were announced last October amid the global financial crisis.

The government had agreed to guarantee the share issues.

HBOS said Monday that its shareholders agreed to buy just 0.24 percent of its 8.5-billion-pound rights issue. Lloyds TSB said that its investors had agreed to buy 0.5 percent of new shares to raise 4.5 billion pounds.

"We are pleased that the capital-raising process has completed and that the new, combined group will have a strong financial position," added Lloyds TSB chief executive Eric Daniels.

"We understand that many existing shareholders did not participate because of the divergence between the offer price and the current market price."

In October, the British government announced a sweeping set of measures to help the banking sector that have become a template adopted in other countries.

It said it would make 50 billion pounds of taxpayers' money available to buy shares in the banks, 200 billion pounds for short-term loans and another 250 billion pounds to guarantee loans between banks.

The government's shareholdings in banks will be overseen by a new public group called UK Financial Investments (UKFI).

"We will look forward to working with UKFI, now that it has become a shareholder in the group pursuant to completion of the proposed acquisition," added Daniels

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