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LONDON -- Lloyds (LSE: LLOY ) (NYSE: LYG ) chairman Sir Winfried Bishoff has announced he will be retiring within the year, as he sees the recovery of the bank from the depths of the financial crisis as nearly complete. Sir Winfried was appointed in September 2009 to oversee the daunting task of cleaning up Lloyds' balance sheet after the disastrous merger with HBOS.
Three and a half years on, there's still work to be done, but -- as revealed in the bank's most recent results -- it appears most of the bad loans have been cleared, and management can once again focus on growing the core operations.
Sir Winfried's decision to stand down can be viewed as an announcement that the worst has passed, and Lloyds is ready to move forward -- and the government should be able to sell its 40% stake in the banking group. With the share price tantalizingly close to the government's breakeven price of 63 pence, now seems as good a time as any.
This announcement comes just weeks after Sir Winfried's counterpart at RBS, Sir Philip Hampton, announced he felt the government would be able to sell its 81% stake in the bank by the middle of next year.
Despite reporting a first-quarter profit, RBS doesn't appear to be quite as far down the road as Lloyds, and there is quite a ways to go before the government sees the shares reach its 499 pence breakeven price.
As stated before, I'm not all that intrigued by U.K. banking shares at the moment -- I don't believe the risk-reward balance is favorable at current prices -- but those braver than me and with long enough time frames could see their daring rewarded.
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