IT DID not always look like the taxpayer would make a profit on Lloyds’ bailout – in fact for many years, quite the opposite.
Just a year ago the share price was 25p, less than half the 62p breakeven point for the UK’s stake.
Now it has tripled, hitting 74p yesterday. Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said the ball is now firmly in the government’s court.
It should sell up right away – anything else represents a gamble, and for no reason other than greed. George Osborne may be tempted to hold on – think how the price might rise in another 12 months. And just in time for the election, too.
But Horta-Osorio warned against this, speaking repeatedly of risks like the Eurozone crisis flaring up unexpectedly. He was referring to the sale of the TSB Bank, but it can also be read as a warning to the chancellor: delay at your peril.
And there is a second risk to any delay. At RBS, Osborne has become increasingly bossy, forcing the bank to run down profitable operations purely to boost politically popular UK lending. The longer Osborne controls a stake in Lloyds, the greater the temptation to fiddle.
A quick sale would be good for all of us.