Hopes of stronger competition to the main high street banks have been dashed as a planned sale of 632 Lloyds Banking Group branches to the Co-op group has fallen through.

The Co-op cited the difficult economic climate and tough new regulations as reasons for not completing the deal.

European regulators demanded the sale of Lloyds branches as a condition of its tax payer bailout: Lloyds is currently 39% owned by the UK government.  The project, known as ‘Project Verde’ will now mean Lloyds will sell branches as a stand-alone bank on the stock market.

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