Two major European banks shed assets for little return on Friday, trading revenue for a chance to get unwanted properties off their books as they contend with pressure to bolster balance sheets and restructure.
The sales by Lloyds Banking Group and ING Groep come amid increasingly clear signs the European Commission will push for heavy restructuring by the banks most reliant on state aid after the credit crisis.
Lloyds is 43-percent owned by the British government after a bailout last year. ING received a 10 billion euro ($14.9 billion) bailout last year and a 22 billion asset guarantee on a loan portfolio earlier this year.
Banks which received substantial state aid will have to restructure. Restructuring is necessary, usually meaning trimming down operations, European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told Dutch lawmakers this week.
There is no free lunch, she said.
Lloyds shifted its loss-making Halifax estate agency business to LSL Property Services for a nominal 1 pound, making LSL the second-largest estate agency network in Britain.
The deal came a day after Lloyds said it was in talks to sell its investment portfolio management service to British wealth manager Rathbone Brothers.
The bank is trying to work its way out of Britain's asset protection scheme, which could require a rights issue of up to 15 billion pounds. It is also looking at asset sales as a way to boost capital, reduce reliance on state aid and ease the wrath of EU competition authorities.
NCB Stockbrokers analyst Simon Willis called the Halifax sale a tidying-up exercise on a non-core asset.
ING, facing its own EU review on two fronts, said it would transfer its U.S. group reinsurance business to Reinsurance Group of America Inc.
The deal will have a limited positive impact on earnings next year but will free up 100 million euros in capital, ING said in a statement. The company is transferring the assets of the unit to RGA and reinsuring its liabilities, in exchange for a commission that will be amortized over time.
ING also did a deal on Thursday, selling Asian private banking operations to Singaporean OCBC for 1 billion euros as part of a worldwide restructuring program. Under that effort it aims to raise 6-8 billion euros through asset sales.
($1 = 0.6702 euro)