Lloyds Banking Group said on Thursday it would step up its cost cutting plans to help to offset a more testing economic environment caused by Britain’s vote to quit the European Union.
Britain’s largest retail bank aims to save 400 million pounds ($528.56 million) by end-2017 by axing a further 3,000 jobs and closing an additional 200 branches to protect its earnings and dividends against the effects of lower-for-longer interest rates.
Lloyds, rescued in a 20.5 billion pound taxpayer bail-out during the financial crisis, is the first major British bank to report results since the referendum and is the most exposed to any downturn in the British economy.
Chief Executive Officer Antonio Horta-Osório is searching for ways to prop up Lloyds’ dividend, one of its key attractions, and sustain profit growth in its main U.K. consumer and commercial lending market, still reeling from the Brexit result on June 24.
“While the business will remain highly capital generative, it is possible that this capital generation may be somewhat lower in future years than previously guided,” the bank said in a statement.
So far this year, Lloyds has already said it would cut about 4,000 positions from its 75,000-strong workforce and has closed nearly 100 branches this year. The bank also said it would look to streamline its non-branch property portfolio by around 30 percent by the end of 2018.
“Lloyds remains a no growth bank,” Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec, said. “Its revenue outlook is flattish, hence its costs need to fall faster.”
Lloyds’ shares were down 2.5% at 54.36 pence by 0749 GMT partly in response to its cautious tone on future capital generation and its possible impact on dividends.
Britain’s vote to leave the EU came at the end of the bank’s fiscal first half, so the likely impact on lending volumes will not become clear until the third quarter and beyond.
Horta-Osorio said the bank’s strategy to grow revenues in a low rate environment would involve expanding in car finance, credit cards and insurance.
Finance Director George Culmer declined to comment on speculation that Lloyds would make a bid for MBNA, Bank of America’s credit card business.
Lloyds reported a forecast-beating first-half statutory pretax profit of 2.45 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) in the six months to June 30, more than double the sum achieved in the same period last year. Income for the first half of the year came in at 8.9 billion pounds, just below the 2015 figure.
The bank said its net interest margin – a key performance measure—had widened to 2.74% over the period. It affirmed previous guidance of about 2.7% for the full financial year.
But a rise in troubled loans by almost a third to 254 million pounds took the shine off the profit beat and robust net interest margin performance and offered a glimpse of tougher times that might lie ahead.
Lloyds said it would pay an interim dividend of 0.85 pence, up 13% on last year.
The government has put on hold plans to sell its remaining stake in Lloyds in the aftermath of the EU vote, according to people familiar with the process. Lloyds’ shares have lost about a quarter of their value since the vote.