Lloyds Banking Group's H1 earnings fall 92% from a year ago, when it booked a £11.2B one-off gain, but revenue up, bad loans almost halved

LONDON , August 4, 2010 () – Part-nationalized Lloyds Banking Group PLC reported Wednesday that first-half net profit fell 92 percent from a year ago, when it booked a big one-off gain, but revenue grew and bad loans were almost halved from a year ago.

Lloyds, formed last year when Lloyds TSB took over Halifax/Bank of Scotland, said net profit was 596 million pounds ($950 million), down from 7.1 billion pounds a year earlier when the company benefited from an 11.2 billion pounds exceptional goodwill gain on the acquisition of HBOS.

Provisions for bad loans and other losses dropped from 13.4 billion pounds to 6.55 billion pounds.

Before taxes, the bank made a profit of 1.6 billion compared to a loss of 4 billion pounds a year ago and 6.3 billion pounds in the second half of 2009. Revenue was up 5 percent to 12.5 billion pounds.

Comparisons with 2009 assume that Lloyds had control of HBOS for all the first half.

Shares in Lloyds, in which the government holds a 41 percent stake after bailing it out during the credit crisis, were up 3.7 percent at 74.58 pence in afternoon trading on the London Stock Exchange.

Bruce Packard, analyst at Seymour Pierce in London, was unimpressed by Lloyds' improved results.

"This is profit in an accounting sense, rather than an economic sense, given the 132 billion of government support the group is still receiving and the billions of wholesale funding with maturity of less than one year," Packard said.

"As a stock broker it is pleasing to see customer deposits leaving the banking system to go into equity markets, as a banks analyst it makes us nervous," said Packard, who rated Lloyds shares as "sell."

Other analysts noted that the absence of a dividend continues to make some investors shy away from Lloyds.

Danny Clarke, analyst at Shore Capital in London, nevertheless saw the bank's report as "very strong" and he upgraded his recommendation from "hold" to "buy."

Looking ahead, the company's chief executive was upbeat about the bank's prospects.

"Based on our economic outlook and the current regulatory context we would expect to see a smaller, more productive balance sheet and are expecting returns on equity of more than 15 percent over the medium to longer term," CEO J. Eric Daniels said.

Lloyds said it shed 23 billion pounds of assets in the first half, bringing the total reduction to 83 billion since the HBOS acquisition on Jan. 19, 2009.

The bank said impairment losses in its retail division fell by 39 percent to 857 million pounds, helped by stabilizing house prices and continued low interest rates.

Retail impairment losses as a percentage of average loan balances fell from 1.15 percent a year ago to 0.7 percent.

Wholesale impairment losses dropped from 9.7 billion pounds last year to 3 billion pounds in the first half.

Nic Clarke, analyst at Charles Stanley & Co., saluted the bank's dramatic improvements in income, margins, costs and impairments, but said the prospect of a weakening U.K. economy was worrying.

"How the U.K. economy fares is key to the performance of (Lloyds Banking Group) as it has a leading market share in UK mortgages, savings and current accounts," Clarke said.

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