Lloyds Banking has returned to private ownership for the first time in eight years, after the government completed the sale of its remaining shares in the lender.
The FTSE 100-listed bank was rescued by a £20.3bn state bailout in 2009 and taxpayers owned a 43% stake in the banking giant at the height of the financial crisis. The government began the process of selling its shares five years and on Wednesday (17 May) it confirmed its remaining stake had been sold, meaning the lender is now fully privately-owned for the first time in almost a decade.
UK Financial Investments Limited (UKFI), which managed the government's stake in the bailed-out bank, said the sale returned a total £21.2bn.
That is in stark contrast with Royal Bank of Scotland, which remains 72% owned by the taxpayers. Last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond has admitted that the government could sell its stake in RBS at a loss.
Hammond told MPs that the government remains committed to returning the taxpayers stake in the lender to private hands as soon as "fair value" is achieved, but he warned that that fair value could be less than what the previous government paid to acquire the stake in 2008.
"Today the government has sold its last shares in Lloyds Banking Group, receiving more money than was originally invested," said Lloyds chief executive António Horta Osório.
Lloyds shares closed on at 70p on Tuesday, below the 73.6p average price that taxpayers paid them in three stages during the crisis and just above the 69p level they were at when Horta Osório was named CEO.
Last week, at the company's annual meeting, Horta Osório told investors he expected the government to make at least £500m from the bailout, though on Wednesday he revised his forecast, indicating the figure would be closer to £900m.
Horta Osório joined the lender in 2011 with Lloyds nursing the impact of the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal, which cost the bank £17bn. The CEO played a pivotal role in turning the bank's fortunes around, although that came at a cost as 57,000 jobs have been cut over the last six years and the EU forced the bank to close 600 branches due to competition issues.
However, Lloyds this year recorded a profit of £4.3bn, the biggest in a decade, and last week said its profits doubled in the first three months of the year, driven by solid trading and lower charges.
The UK's biggest retail banking group, which also owns the Halifax and HBOS, said first quarter pre-tax profit jumped 99% to £1.3bn, from £654m in the same period a year ago.