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The Biz: BANK PROFITS UP 66% TO pounds 4.35bn.

Byline: NEIL HODGSON

BANKING group Lloyds TSB reported progress ``strategically and financially'' today after returning to growth with annual profits of pounds 4.35bn.

The figure, which was in line with market expectations, represented a 66% improvement on last year after the sale of a number of overseas businesses contributed around pounds 865m to the company's bottom line.

Stripping out the disposals and other one-offfactors,Lloyds said profits were down by 4% to pounds 3.38bn. Most of this shortfall related to changes made in business banking following a Competition Commission inquiry.

The performance follows a string of strategic changes introduced by new chief executive Eric Daniels in the wake of last year's 17%profits fall.

During the year Lloyds sold a number of its businesses, including the National Bank of New Zealand and most of its operations in Brazil,as it moved to focus on core franchises and remove ``significant earnings volatility.''

Mr Daniels also acted to reduce costs,cutting the group's staffing levels by around 1,200 to 71,609at the end of the year.

He said today's figures showed the group had made good progress ``both strategically and financially'' and that he was confident of a further improved performance by the second half of 2004.

Mr Daniels added: ``We have brought a sharper focus on maintaining and building profitability and we are beginning to deliver growth in our substantial retail and corporate customer franchises.'' Today's figures show pre-tax profits from the group's core UK retail banking and mortgages business increased by 1% to pounds 1.02bn.Excluding a pounds 200mprovision for customer compensation, the figure was 21%higher.

-Gross new mortgage lending increased by 27% to a record pounds 24.2bn with the net figure also at an all- time high of pounds 8.3bn.

There was also some encouragement from the bank over bad and doubtful debts with the charge for 2003 falling 8% to pounds 950m.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2004
Words:321
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