Lloyds Falls as Rising Funding Costs Imperil Profit in 2011

Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, tumbled in London trading as the bank said rising funding costs will squeeze profit margins in 2011.

The net interest margin, the difference between what the bank pays for funds and what it charges for loans, will be unchanged in 2011, Lloyds said in a statement today. The lender is replacing government support with costlier wholesale funding.

“The numbers and outlook statement from Lloyds are a bit of a horror show,” said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas SA in London with a “neutral” rating on the stock. “Lloyds’s second-half performance has been very weak.”

Analysts including Gordon and John-Paul Crutchley at UBS AG said they may cut estimates for 2011 pretax profit by more than 2 billion pounds ($3.2 billion), about a third. Chief Executive Officer Eric Daniels, who will be succeeded by Antonio Horta- Osorio next week, has been trying to wean Lloyds off state aid after the takeover of HBOS Plc in 2008 led to 13 billion pounds of losses and left the taxpayer owning 41 percent of the lender.

The shares tumbled 4.5 percent to 62.85 pence at the close in London, the biggest decline in more than three months.

“The knee-jerk reaction could be some disappointment,” said Cormac Leech, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Ltd. in London who has a “buy” rating on the stock. “The biggest negative is that the margin will stay flat in 2011.”

Net Interest Margin

Lloyds posted a full-year net loss of 320 million pounds in 2010, compared with a 2.83 billion-pound profit in 2009, the bank said in the statement. Earnings the previous year were buoyed by an 11.1 billion-pound accounting gain on the HBOS purchase. Pretax profit slumped 62 percent to 609 million pounds in the second half of 2010 from the first half.

The net interest margin rose to 2.1 percent from 1.8 percent in 2009. Lloyds cut its reliance on government aid to 96.6 billion pounds in 2010 from 157.2 billion pounds in 2009.

The shares, the second-best performing of the U.K.’s five biggest lenders last year, may struggle to repeat that in 2011 as funding costs and Irish loan losses climb and a government commission weighs whether to break Lloyds up, analysts said. The Independent Banking Commission, which is reviewing competition in the financial services industry, will report in September. Lloyds said today it also expects a “slow recovery over the next couple of years” for the British economy.

“Another extremely challenging year lies ahead,” Gordon said. “There are still very significant bumps in the road.”

Halifax, Oil Losses

Lloyds posted its first full-year pretax profit since the credit crisis today. Profit was 2.2 billion pounds compared with a loss of 6.3 billion pounds in 2009. That beat the 2 billion- pound median profit estimated by 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Provisions fell 45 percent to 13.2 billion pounds in 2010 from 24 billion pounds in 2009.

Profit was crimped by a 4.3 billion-pound charge for bad loans in Ireland and a 365 million-pound loss on the sale of two deepwater oil drilling rig businesses to Seadrill Ltd. The bank also made a 500 million-pound provision to cover payments it’s making to Halifax mortgage clients because the terms of their loans were unclear.

Lloyds follows Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in posting an increase in losses from the implosion of Ireland’s decade- long real estate boom. Edinburgh-based RBS posted a full-year loss of 1.1 billion pounds yesterday, missing analyst estimates as Irish loan losses almost doubled.

“We expect to see further reductions in impairment losses in 2011 and beyond,” Lloyds said in the statement.

‘Radical’ Intervention

Pretax profit at Lloyds’s consumer banking unit rose to 4.7 billion pounds from 1.4 billion pounds. Profit was bolstered as customers reverted to standard variable rate mortgages, which generate more income than fixed-rate loans, Daniels, 59, said on a call to journalists today.

“The stand-out performance in the retail division will undoubtedly raise eyebrows, adding fuel to the fire of those that view the banking behemoth as an anti-competitive force,” said Paul Mumford, a fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management in London. “Increased profits will be met by increased enthusiasm for radical regulatory intervention.”

Daniels, who has overseen a 76 percent plunge in Lloyds share price since he took over as CEO in 2003, said he was “very pleased’ with his tenure at the bank. Daniels told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme that he hasn’t decided whether to accept his 1.45 million-pound bonus for 2010 even though the board has made an award.

The bank’s core Tier 1 capital ratio, which measures financial strength, rose to 10.2 percent from 8.1 percent as risk-weighted assets declined by 18 percent to 406.4 billion pounds. Lloyds said it expects to meet its target to cut assets by about 100 billion pounds over the next three years.

“We achieved a step change in our financial performance despite modest economic growth,” Daniels said. “While the significant decrease in impairments was a key driver in our return to profitability, we also saw a good performance in the core business.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gavin Finch in London at gfinch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

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