Lloyds branch sale on track amid pay backlash

Lloyds Bank expects to find a buyer for the 600 branches it has put up for sale by the end of this year, despite concerns that it may have to sell still more in future.

The part-nationalised high street bank is pushing ahead with the asset sale dubbed “Project Verde” despite the Independent Commission on Banking report that said it may have to sell substantially more branches to avoid competition concerns in the UK market.

“We are contacting potential buyers,” new chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio told the bank’s annual meeting today.

However, shareholders used the meeting to voice their opposition to the the salary and benefits agreed for the bank’s top executives, and the mis-selling of payment protection insurance that has cost it £3.2bn.

Almost ten per cent of shareholders voted against its remuneration report in protest at a potential £10m pay deal for Horta-Osorio, with 92 per cent approving it.

The Association of British Insurers had issued a so-called “amber top” alert to its members over his lucrative signing-on deal, while other investor groups have been critical that not all his long-term targets have been set, and will depend on his strategic plan.

But many shareholders and the public remain angry at large salaries at the 83 per cent government-owned bank.

The branch sale has attracted interest from bank ventures such as Lord Levene’s new bank NBNK and the finance arms of Tesco and Virgin, among others.

"The bank is proceeding with Project Verde with full speed and we hope to identify a potential purchaser by the end of 2011," chairman Win Bischoff said.