Shareholders approve Britain's HBOS-Lloyds TSB merger
AFP - Saturday, December 13
LONDON (AFP) - - Shareholders in stricken British bank HBOS approved a multi-billion-pound takeover by rival Lloyds TSB on Friday, clearing the way for a new banking giant to emerge after recent financial upheaval.
"HBOS is pleased to confirm that each of the resolutions put to shareholders ... were passed by the requisite majorities," the bank said in a statement following the conclusion of a shareholder meeting in Birmingham, central England.
Overall, investors holding more than 98 percent of HBOS stock supported the takeover, as well as a recapitalisation that hands the British government a key stake in the lender.
Shareholders in Lloyds backed the takeover and recapitalisation last month.
Lloyds agreed in September to buy HBOS in a deal worth 9.8 billion pounds (14.6 billion dollars, 10.9 billion euros) after its target was left facing collapse owing to massive exposure to the US subprime mortgage crisis.
Competition rules have been waived to allow the takeover.
But in a sign of the continuing problems that banks are facing in the global economic slowdown, HBOS published a bleak trading update on Friday in which it said it saw a sharp rise in bad debts in both corporate and personal lending.
"Global market and economic conditions, UK recession and increasing unemployment will continue to present a particularly challenging operating and credit environment," the bank said.
In response to the news, shares in both banks plunged -- Lloyds stock plummeted 18 percent to 129.9 pence and HBOS shares tumbled 23 percent to 67.5 pence by the close of trading in London.
Lloyds chief executive Eric Daniels welcomed Friday's green light for the takeover, saying: "We are very pleased that HBOS shareholders have given a strong vote of confidence for the proposed acquisition, and that they will be in a position to share in the benefits as we create the UK's leading financial institution."
A combination of Lloyds and HBOS will create a new British banking giant, Lloyds Banking Group, encompassing 145,000 employees and 3,000 branches across Britain.
HBOS said last month that it expected the transaction to be completed in January, subject to shareholder approval and legal and regulatory issues.
Lloyds, HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland received government bailouts last month after they were hit by the credit crunch.
HBOS chairman Dennis Stevenson had warned last week that his embattled bank risked nationalisation should the Lloyds takeover fall through.
He said Friday that he was "neither happy nor proud" about the financial impact of the bank's struggles on investors, adding that the world was experiencing "the most pronounced financial crisis since the Great Depression."
Unions meanwhile protested outside the shareholder meeting.
Rob MacGregor, national secretary at the Unite trade union, said there was concern about redundancies, adding that job assurances "have been few and far between."
Stevenson also came in for criticism from the bank's investors, with shareholder Peter Hapworth telling the meeting: "Let's face facts, it is a bank like yours along with a number of other banks that have caused the crisis in the first place."
"You all went dashing for short-term gain to fulfil bonuses and salaries."
Britain's economy has struggled to deal with the impact of the international financial crisis, with the country teetering on the brink of recession for the first time since 1992 and experiencing the lowest interest rates since 1951.
Mortgage lender Northern Rock was the first victim of the crisis, having to be nationalised by the British government earlier this year.
And Spanish banking giant Santander said Friday it was cutting 1,900 jobs in Britain next year in a bid to cut costs after its acquisition of Alliance and Leicester earlier this year.
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Shareholders in crisis-hit British banking group HBOS have approved a takeover by rival Lloyds TSB, according to partial results.
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