In an effort to speed up the proposed sale of 600 branches, Antonio Horta-Osório – the new chief of Lloyds bank, has initiated the process of hiring investment bankers.
Compared to the original timetable of two years proposed by outgoing boss Eric Daniels, Mr. Horta-Osório may complete the divestment process in the next few months.
The incoming Portuguese chief wants to start reforming the bank at the earliest and deal with the problems as early as possible. Lloyds will announce its annual results in a week’s time following which Mr. Daniels will step down as the chief executive.
The European Commission had ordered the restructuring after the bank was forced to seek bail-out money following its acquisition of HBOS. Brussels had ordered the restructuring to be completed by 2013. Mr. Daniels had originally proposed to complete the integration process of HBOS before starting off with branch divestments. However, it is learnt that the incoming chief has already held talks with investment bankers including the Rothschild, Credit Suisse and JP Morgan.
The market buzz is that Mr. Horta-Osório may attempt to complete the divestment process before September, when the Commission on banking meets next to announce its recommendations on improving financial stability and competition in British banking sector, since it may recommend an ever bigger branch divestment programme.
The branch sell-off may not be easy as Lord Levene – Chairman of the Lloyd’s of London Insurance is only among a handful bidders. French group BNP Paribas and Spanish bank BBVA have refused to buy branches to enter the UK market.
The Portuguese chief is also slated to shake up the entire board and is understood to have planned bringing in fresh executives to focus on improved customer experience and small business lending.