* Britain expected to start selling 39 pct stake soon
* Lloyds to start talks about restoring dividend
* Lloyds confident on capital, raises profit margin guidance
* Shares jump more than 8 pct
By Steve Slater and Carmel Crimmins
LONDON, Aug 1 Britain could soon start selling
its stake in Lloyds Banking Group after the country's
largest retail bank accelerated a turnaround and flagged a
return to payouts for shareholders.
Prime Minister David Cameron is keen to show that Britain's
part-nationalised lenders are on the mend, and a profitable sale
of part of the state's 39 percent stake in Lloyds would allow
him to claim at least partial success.
Royal Bank of Scotland, the other bank Britain
bailed out with billions of pounds of taxpayers' money during
the 2008 financial crisis, is still struggling to recover.
The government could sell a tranche of about 5 billion
pounds ($7.6 billion) - or a quarter of its stake - to
institutional investors, such as pension and hedge funds, in the
next week, people close to the matter said.
If that doesn't happen, the government will probably wait
until September, the people said. Bankers dislike selling shares
in August because many investors are on holiday.
Lloyds Chief Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio is keen for the
sale to start. "I do believe we have delivered on our part and
the government can now start selling shares," he said at a press
conference on Thursday.
"It's now up to the government to decide how and when to
sell. They can now give taxpayers a profit on the shares."
Lloyds' shares jumped 8.2 percent to a near three-year high
of 74.1 pence by 1524 GMT, more than one fifth above the 61p the
government regards as break-even on its 20.5 billion pound
The government's advisers, led by JP Morgan, should
be able to place stock at less than a 5 percent discount given
strong recent demand, bankers said.
Lloyds said it was ahead of schedule on its goals for cost
savings and capital strength. It raised guidance for profit
margins after beating forecasts with a near trebling of first-
half underlying profit to 2.9 billion pounds ($4.4 billion).
That performance, driven by higher margins and lower
impairments on loans, means Lloyds will start talks with
regulators about resuming payouts to shareholders - seen as an
important step towards a stake sale.
Shareholders have not received a dividend from Lloyds, once
a solid, high-yielding stock, since its ill-fated rescue of
rival HBOS in 2008.
Some analysts said the dividend drought could end this year.
"Improved margin guidance suggests 10-15 percent pretax
profit upgrade for 2013. We remain of the view Lloyds will
announce a fourth-quarter dividend in parallel with the start of
the UK government placing," said Numis analyst Mike Trippitt.
Horta-Osorio said he expects Lloyds to be "a high dividend
paying stock" in the future, based on its strong cash
The government reiterated on Thursday that is has no set
timetable or target price for the sale.
Lloyds assured investors it could meet any additional
capital requirements from regulators without having to issue
shares or bonds, unlike larger rival Barclays, which
this week announced a 5.8 billion pound rights issue to help it
plug a 12.8 billion capital shortfall.
Lloyds is the best-performing banking stock in Europe,
having more than doubled in value over the past 12 months.
It plans to list a network of 630 branches, rebranded as
TSB, on the stock market by June 2014. In the 1980's, the TSB
brand was the self-styled "bank that likes to say yes" before
being taken over by Lloyds.
Lloyds has spent 377 million pounds on separating the
branches this year, taking the total cost to 1.2 billion pounds.
It still needs European Union approval to proceed with sale.
On a statutory basis, Lloyds reported a profit of 2.1
billion pounds for the six months to the end of June, rebounding
from a loss of 456 million a year ago, despite taking another
500 million pounds charge for the mis-selling of payment
protection insurance (PPI).
Lloyds has now set aside 7.3 billion pounds to cover the
mis-selling of PPI, the most of any UK bank.
The bank said it was ahead of schedule in revamping its
business and it now expected to hit a group net interest margin,
a measure of profitability, of 2.1 percent for 2013 compared
with previous guidance of 1.98 percent.
Lloyds expects to shrink its non-core assets to under 70
billion pounds by the end of this year, 12 months ahead of
schedule. Total costs will be around 9.6 billion pounds this
year, 200 million less than previously indicated.
The bank will further cut its international footprint to
fewer than 10 countries by the end of 2014, from 14 now and 30