Lloyds bank chief executive to return next month

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Britain's state-rescued Lloyds Banking Group said Wednesday that its boss Antonio Horta-Osorio will return to work on January 9, after making a full recovery from illness.

Chief executive Horta-Osorio temporarily stood down in early November and was understood to be suffering from fatigue.

"The LBG board has completed a rigorous process, including obtaining independent medical advice, to assess Antonio's ability to return and effectively lead the group," the lender said in a statement.

"The independent medical advice has concluded that he has made a full recovery. Following due consideration the board has decided he will return to the bank as group chief executive on 9 January 2012.

"As part of the process the board has agreed to an initiative from Antonio to restructure and reduce his direct reporting lines in order to strengthen the accountabilities of his senior management team."

LBG chief financial officer Tim Tookey is presently the bank's interim chief executive but is due to leave the company early next year.

Portuguese national Horta-Osorio became chief executive in March and has since announced a massive cost-cutting drive.

"The board and I are pleased that Antonio has made a full recovery," said LBG chairman Sir Win Bischoff.

"We are looking forward to his return after the New Year to continue to lead the group and build on the strong progress he has already made in transforming the business and delivering the strategic plan."

LBG, which is 40.2 percent state-owned after a huge bailout at the height of the global financial crisis, has slashed more than 40,000 posts since 2009 as it looks to nurse its way back to health after its part-nationalisation.

The lender, which was sunk by the ill-fated 2008 takeover of rival bank HBOS, is also seeking to cut its international presence to just 15 countries by 2014.

Horta-Osorio was formerly head of Santander UK, the British wing of the Spanish bank. His predecessor at Lloyds, Eric Daniels, left amid shareholder anger after he oversaw the government-brokered takeover of HBOS.

In a separate announcement on Wednesday, Lloyds named financial services firm The Co-operative Group as preferred bidder for the 632 bank branches it is being forced to sell by EU regulators after its vast state bailout.

"Lloyds ... will now progress more detailed exclusive discussions with The Co-operative Group, with the aim of agreeing heads of terms by the end of the first quarter of 2012," it said. LBG hopes to complete the deal by late 2013.

© 2011 AFP

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