Lloyds chairman Bischoff stands down as UK government sale of shares looms

A sign from a branch of a Lloyds bank is reflected in a window in central London. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

A sign from a branch of a Lloyds bank is reflected in a window in central London. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

 

Lloyds Banking Group chairman Win Bischoff will retire in the next year, handing the reins to a successor who must steer it through a potentially risky multi-billion pound government share sale.

Mr Bischoff (72) has overseen a restructuring and return to profitability at Lloyds, rescued by the UK government through a £20 billion bailout during the 2008 financial crisis which left Britain with a 39 per cent stake. His replacement will need a mix of stock market nous and political sensitivity, given the high-profile nature of the looming privatisation and British chancellor of the exchequer George Osbourne’s need to maximise returns to help fix the nation’s deficit.

Industry and political sources have said the government is keen to start selling off shares in the bank ahead of the 2015 general election and the new chairman will be tasked with handling the potentially delicate political process.

Shares in Lloyds have been edging closer to the 61 pence level which the government regards as its break-even and last week hit a two-year high of 59.1p, raising hopes Britain could soon start selling its shares, which have a stock market value of some £17 billion.

That prospect means the bank’s new chairman will need to quickly establish strong relationships with Osbourne and with UK Financial Investments (UKFI), which manages the government’s stake.

The Treasury and UKFI are expected to have a say in the process. Lloyds, the Treasury and the Bank of England declined to comment. The bank said yesterday Anthony Watson, its senior independent director, would lead the search.

Lloyds said Bischoff would retire no later than next year’s annual shareholders’ meeting in May 2014. The exact date will be subject to the appointment of his successor.

Mr Bischoff said Lloyds had made significant progress towards its goal of becoming a strong UK-focused retail and commercial bank. – ( Reuters )