Lloyds offloads Australian insurance business

Taxpayer-backed Lloyds Banking Group today sold its remaining Australian businesses to local bank Westpac  in a deal worth A$1.55 billion (£917 million).

It is the latest sell-off by the bank, which is now 33% owned by the taxpayer, as it disposes of non-core assets and strengthens its balance sheet.

Lloyds’ Australian operations have been loss-making for several years, although today’s businesses, which include car loans, asset financing and general lending to companies, made profits of £80 million in 2012. The  gross value of the loans is A$8.8 billion.

Analysts said today’s sale would bring Lloyds closer  to meeting the extra capital buffers required by the Prudential Regulation Authority.

From an original target of £8.6 billion identified by the PRA at the end of 2012, Lloyds is now down to about  £2.2 billion. Almost half of that could come from an extra large dividend payout this year from Scottish Widows, its life assurance arm, or even more from a complete sale of that business.

Westpac saw off rival bids from at least five other Australian banks. Originally analysts had pencilled in a sale price of about £1 billion.

Today’s A$1.55 billion price is worth £917 million, but Lloyds is also taking a A$100 million dividend out of the business before it is sold. That will take the total proceeds up to £977 million.

NICK GOODWAY  :  London Evening Standards
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