Levene hits out at Bischoff over Lloyds branches

David Hellier
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LORD Levene, the City veteran who tried to buy 600 branches from Lloyds Bank, yesterday accused its chairman and chief executive of being at best disingenuous and at times selective in their recent evidence in front of an influential group of MPs.

Presenting written evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, which is looking into why Lloyds decided to overlook a bid from his NBNK Investments to favour a rival one from the Co-op, Lord Levene argues that his group’s bid, which started at £1.7bn, was always the preferable one.

Earlier this year the Co-op was forced to withdraw from the bidding after it found itself in a weak financial situation.

In one part of his evidence, Lord Levene says that he and a senior colleague presented the Lloyds chairman Win Bischoff in January last year with a report which questioned the capability of the Co-op to complete its bid.

Yesterday Levene said: “Did Antonio (Horta-Osorio, the Lloyds chief executive) see the report? The problems of the Co-op were not exactly secret.”

“Two of us gave him that report. I want to know whether he showed it to the board or stuck it in a bin,” Levene said last night.

Lloyds declined to answer specific questions yesterday, issuing a short statement instead. “We have nothing to add to the evidence we gave at the Treasury Select Committee. The decision was based purely on commercial terms," a bank spokesman commented.

Lord Levene said he would continue to campaign on the issue. “I want the truth to come out,” he said. He accused Bischoff and Horta-Osorio of being disingenuous in the way they presented his group’s bids in comparison with the Co-op’s.