The government revealed this morning that it had shed more of its stake in Lloyds Banking Group, with its remaining shareholding now standing at less than four per cent.
The government said to date it had recovered over £19bn of the £20.3bn of taxpayer cash that was used to bolster the bank in the aftermath of the financial crisis, once share sales and dividends received are accounted for.
The government ceased to be the bank's biggest shareholder in January. As of today, it now holds just 3.9 per cent of the lender's shares, compared with 43 per cent at its peak.
The announcement comes a day after the lender revealed its profits before tax for 2016 had more than doubled to £4.2bn.
"Lloyds' strong annual results show that we are in a good position to continue to reduce our shareholding and recover all of the money the tax-payer injected into the bank during the financial crisis," said economic secretary to the Treasury Simon Kirby.
Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, added:
We are pleased that Lloyds’ strong financial performance in 2016 has enabled the government to further sell down its stake in the bank to below four per cent. This means over £19bn returned to the taxpayer; and is alongside the further £2.2bn in dividends paid to our 2.5m shareholders, as announced yesterday.
If the Lloyds' share sale continues at its current pace, it is thought the government will likely be rid of its entire shareholding before the end of the first half of this year.
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Shares in Lloyds rose 0.9 per cent to 70.3p in early trading.
By contrast, the government still owns 73 per cent of the Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS is due to announce its latest full-year results tomorrow, and analysts have predicted it will reveal it has made a loss for the ninth year in a row.