BRUSSELS, Sept 17 – An accelerated decision on how a controversial state-sponsored merger of British banks Lloyds and HBOS can proceed is due imminently, the EU\’s competition watchdog said on Wednesday.
"I can say that not that long from now, we can give you a bit more (clarity) about this case," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told reporters in Brussels. "Time is running out."
Kroes said she remains in "close contact" with Lloyds Banking Group and the government in London, which waived competition rules to seal a rescue for Halifax Bank of Scotland and holds 43 percent of LBG.
Media across Britain have reported that the European Commission could force Lloyds Banking Group to sell its Halifax unit, Britain\’s biggest mortgage lender.
LBG has slashed thousands of jobs since its creation earlier this year under a 17-billion-pound (19 billion euros, 28 billion dollars) government bailout and newspaper reports have said Kroes plans to impose draconian penalties.
The commission has already forced Germany\’s Commerzbank to shed 45 percent of its balance sheet after it received aid from the German state, which now owns 25 percent of the group.