Lloyds Banking Group, the UK’s largest retail bank with 3,450 branches and 25 million customers, is to close all 164 branches of its Cheltenham & Gloucester branded subsidiary.

The C&G brand is to be kept for mortgages and savings products, however, in much the same way that rival UK bank Barclays retained the ‘Woolwich’ name for its mortgage business in 2008.

Around 3,000 jobs have already been cut since Lloyds’ controversial acquisition of bankrupt UK rival Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) last year. The combined group is 45 percent owned by the UK government.

In a first quarter trading update in mid-May (see RBI 612), Lloyds forecast a sharp increase in its bad debt charges for 2009 blaming “rising UK unemployment, reduced corporate cash flows, the continuing impact of lower house prices and falls in the value of commercial real estate”.

HBOS reported a £11 billion ($18 billion) loss for 2008 due to investment losses and bad debts (seeRBI 608).