Lloyds seeks buyers for its €1bn Irish Halifax deposits

LLOYDS Banking Group has put its Halifax retail banking assets in the Republic of Ireland up for sale as it gives up its attempt to break into the tough local market.

Earlier this week the bank said it would close 44 branches and lay off 750 staff by July. Its Irish intermediary business, which sells residential mortgages, motor finance and commercial asset finance arms will shut.

The move reflects the strength of ongoing headwinds from the Irish economy, which has suffered from the devastating collapse in its housing market. Home prices fell nearly 20 per cent last year while unemployment is predicted to reach up to 17 per cent by the end of 2010.

Bank of Scotland, Lloyds’ subsidiary looking after the assets, is in discussions with potential buyers. The bank is reported to have opened its books on €1bn (£867m) worth of deposits in 50,000 Halifax accounts to interested parties. The balances of 50,000 credit cards are thought to have been confidentially disclosed.

A spokesperson for Lloyds said: “We do not comment on speculation.”

The bank said earlier its Halifax retail arm lacked the scale needed to succeed in the Irish market.