March 9, 2015 / 7:38 AM / 5 years ago

Taxpayer stake in Lloyds falls below 23 percent

LONDON (Reuters) - British taxpayers have recovered a total 8.5 billion pounds ($12.81 billion) from their emergency investment in Lloyds Banking Group, following a 500 million pounds ($753.65 million) share sale that has reduced the public ownership of the bank to under 23 percent.

Signs are seen outside a branch of Lloyds Bank in central London October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

The size of the stake owned by British taxpayers in Lloyds Banking Group has fallen from 40 percent to 22.98 percent, UK Financial Investments, the government agency in charge of managing the interest, said on Monday.

The latest sale takes the total amount of money raised since the December launch of HM Treasury’s trading plan in the bank to more than 1 billion pounds.

All shares sold through the trading plan have been sold above the 73.6 pence per share average price the previous government paid for them, the Treasury said.

“These sales are part of our plan to return Lloyds to the private sector and get taxpayers’ money back. The proceeds will be used to reduce the national debt,” Britain’s Finance Minister George Osborne said in a statement.

News of the reduction comes less than two weeks after Lloyds, rescued at a cost of 20 billion pounds during the financial crisis, paid its first dividend in more than six years.

“Today’s announcement shows further progress made in returning Lloyds Banking Group to full private ownership and enabling the taxpayer to get their money back,” a spokesman for the bank said in an emailed statement.

“This reflects the hard work undertaken over the last four years to transform the Group into a low-risk and customer-focused bank that is committed to helping Britain prosper.”

The government took a 40 percent stake in Lloyds in 2009.

($1 = 0.6634 pounds)

Reporting By Sinead Cruise, editing by Pamela Barbaglia

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