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Lloyds sale 'within 18 months'

LLOYDS is poised for a return to private ownership within 18 months, while part-taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland faces some major hurdles before it can regain independence.

The UK Government viewed its September sale of a 6% stake in Lloyds as a milestone in the country's recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, during which taxpayers pumped a combined £65 billion into Lloyds and RBS. It is keen to sell the remaining 33% before the 2015 election.

But the Government and UK Financial Investments, the agency that manages bank stakes, are assessing options after this week's expiry of a lock-in preventing the Government from selling more Lloyds shares.

Sources said the remaining stake is likely to be sold in tranches, the first of which could be in February.

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