U.K. Could Sell All of Lloyds Within Year, Blackwell Says

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The British government could sell its remaining stake in Lloyds Banking Group Plc within a year, Chairman Norman Blackwell said.

“It’s possible,” Blackwell told reporters at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting in Edinburgh on Thursday. “It would be very desirable if the government can achieve that. It would obviously depend on the market conditions.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, who won a surprise majority in the U.K. general election last week, have vowed to sell shares in Lloyds to the public at a discount and return Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to private ownership as soon as possible. The government wants to sell at least 9 billion pounds ($14 billion) of Lloyds shares this fiscal year.

The U.K. government earlier this week cut its stake in Lloyds below 20 percent, raising about 634 million pounds. Under a plan introduced in December, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne plans to gradually reduce the government stake in an “orderly and measured way,” ending no later than June 30.

One option could be to extend the program, according to Blackwell.

‘Successful’ Plan

“It’s up to them if they continue that but they have a number of options open to them,” he said. “It’s obviously been successful so far.”

Lloyds shares were little changed at 88.74 pence at 3:43 p.m. in London. They have increased 17 percent this year, while RBS, which is 80 percent government owned, fell 9.7 percent.

Taxpayers have so far recouped more than 10 billion pounds from the bailout, which cost the government about 20.3 billion pounds during the global financial crisis.

Cameron has pledged a mass privatization of the bank that recalls the selloffs of the Thatcher era in the 1980s. People will be able to buy as little as 250 pounds of the shares up to a maximum of 10,000 pounds, with priority going to orders of as much as 1,000 pounds, according to Osborne. The offer will include a “loyalty bonus” giving people who own the stock for a year a free share for each 10 they own, Osborne wrote in the Sunday Telegraph last month.

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