By Marcus Leach

Lloyds Banking Group have announced that, having further reviewed the formal offers for its EC mandated retail and commercial business divestment (Verde) the preferred option is a direct sale and the preferred bidder for the business is The Co-operative Group.

Lloyds Banking Group will now progress more detailed exclusive discussions with The Co-operative Group, with the aim of agreeing heads of terms by the end of Q1 2012. The Group will continue to progress an Initial Public Offering (IPO) during this phase of the discussions.

“We are pleased to be reporting progress with the Verde divestment which continues to move forward in line with our expectations," Tim Tookey, Interim Group Chief Executive and Group Finance Director, said.

"I am confident that we will complete the transaction by the end of November 2013, in line with the EC mandated timescale.”

This is subject to regulatory approval.

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