Lloyds to repay £11.4bn ECB loans

Taxpayer-backed Lloyds Banking Group has achieved another milestone in its path to recovery as it announced plans to repay billions of pounds of European Central Bank loans.

The lender, which is 39% owned by the Government, said it was paying back all the 13.5 billion euros (£11.4 billion) borrowed under a cheap funding scheme run by the ECB nearly two years before the repayment deadline.

Lloyds paid back 10 billion euros (£8.4 billion) of the funds drawn under the ECB's Long Term Refinancing Operation at the end of February and said it would now repay the remainder, following the sale of its Spanish retail business at the end of last month.

The bank said the early repayment of the funds "demonstrate the group's balance sheet strength and strong liquidity position."

Lloyds also announced a deal to sell its loss-making commercial property portfolio to private equity firm Cerberus for £325 million.

The assets were worth £527 million and the portfolio made losses of £47 million in 2012.

But Lloyds said the deal would not have a material impact as it has already written down the value of the portfolio.

The group has sparked speculation over government plans to sell off its stake in the bank after recent progress in its recovery efforts.

Lloyds reported a better-than-expected result for the first three months of the year after underlying profits trebled to £1.5 billion from £497 million a year earlier.

Its shares have crept closer to the 61p average price paid by the Government during the bank's bailout in 2008, further fuelling talk over when ministers may aim for a re-privatisation, given the 2015 general election.

The five worst financial crises of our time

The five worst financial crises of our time