Lloyds Banking shares to be offered to the public

Lloyds bank building outside branding

With the news the government is to finally sell its stake in Lloyds Banking Group, Interactive Investor's Lee Wild talks us through the plan.

It's confirmed. The government will sell its remaining stake in Lloyds next spring. Of course, we kind of guessed that. Getting a sale away before Christmas would have been tight, and equity markets are hideously volatile currently. Far more sensible to leave it until next year when, hopefully, markets will be on more of an even keel, we'll have avoided a China-led recession and the UK economy is strong enough to support a first rise in interest rates, typically a good sign for the bank sector.

"It is the government's intention to fully exit from its Lloyds shareholding in the coming months, and as part of this at least £2bn of shares will be sold to retail investors," the Treasury said Monday. "Members of the public will be offered a discount of 5% of the market price, with a bonus share for every 10 shares for those who hold their investment for more than a year."

Much of that we already knew. The government, which owns £6.5 billion of Lloyds shares after taking its stake to less than 12% last month, had also told us that benefits from the bonus share scheme will be capped at £200 per investor, and that those people applying for investments of less than £1,000 will be prioritised.

However, the amount of Lloyds shares being made available to Joe Public is only half the figure mooted in April ahead of the general election. Already boasting a huge army of shareholders following the acquisition of Halifax-owner HBOS, rubber-stamped in 2009, demand for this retail offer is expected to be high.

"Whilst unlikely to capture the imagination of investors in the same way as Royal Mail, the offer still looks set to deliver a good opportunity for retail investors, in particular those who are new to the market," says Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor.

Although the discount being offered is hardly generous, the extra shares are certainly an incentive for longer term shareholders, and the investment case for Lloyds shares has looked more convincing in recent months.

In a massive research note on the banks published four weeks ago, JP Morgan suggested the shares could be worth as much as 120p, assuming a strong pickup in loan growth in the UK, on-going rise in the property prices and higher interest rates

Even in a less bullish scenario, the broker thinks they should hit 105p in time. And the lender has begun paying dividends, too, so there's also something here for incomes seekers. Lloyds currently trades on a prospective yield of over 5% and rising.

Over the summer, Barclays ran the numbers and now believes Lloyds could afford to pay back as much as £25 billion to shareholders over the next three years - £14 billion by way of ordinary dividends, with the rest made up of share buybacks and special divis. 

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