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Lloyds new era begins as government sells off final shares

LONDON May 17 Britain has sold its last remaining stake in Lloyds Banking Group, making the lender the first to re-emerge from British state ownership in a symbolic step for the country's recovering banking sector.

The sale draws a line under one of the largest bailouts from the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. This involved Lloyds, Britain's biggest retail lender, being rescued after an ill-fated government-brokered takeover of rival HBOS.

"Six years ago we inherited a business that was in a very fragile financial condition," Lloyds Chief Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio, who joined the bank in 2011, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Thanks to the hard work of everyone at Lloyds, we've turned the group around."

The takeover of HBOS in 2008 caused Lloyds to suffer more than 25 billion pounds in losses, with the bailout leaving the government with a 43 percent state shareholding.

Lloyds said in a statement that the government will make a profit of about 900 million pounds ($1.16 billion), having spent more than 20 billion pounds rescuing the bank. ($1 = 0.7730 pounds) (Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; Editing By Rachel Armstrong)

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