Lloyds offloads Australian arm

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State-backed Lloyds Banking Group has agreed to sell off its Australian insurance and corporate lending businesses for £900 million as it narrows its focus on the UK.

The group, which was rescued by the taxpayer during the financial crisis, is slimming down as it prepares to return to full private ownership after the Government recently began selling off its stake.

Now it has sold insurer Capital Finance Australia and corporate lender BOS International (Australia) to Westpac Banking Corporation, as it disposes of its operations in the country.

Lloyds said: “The sale is in line with the group’s strategy of focusing on the UK, rationalising its international presence and ensuring best value for shareholders.”

The transaction, due to complete by the end of this year, will also boost the group’s capital ratio - a key measure of financial health which banks are under pressure to improve.

Lloyds, which owns Halifax and Bank of Scotland, is now 33 per cent owned by the taxpayer after the Government sold off a six per cent chunk for £3.2bn last month.

It has also recently spun off more than 600 bank branches under the revived TSB brand - a move forced on it by European law on state aid.

Lloyds had to be saved by the Government after stepping in to swallow up the troubled Halifax Bank of Scotland Group five years ago.

Since then it has dumped assets including the Vue cinema chain and shirt maker TM Lewin that were bought by HBOS in a buying spree prior to its collapse.

In May this year it struck a £3.3bn deal to sell US mortgage bonds and beef up its balance sheet.