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Lender PCF to withdraw from UK market after rescue fails

By Sinchita Mitra

(Reuters) -PCF Group is pulling out of Britain's banking market and plans to cancel its share listing on AIM, after it failed to raise capital or secure strategic options to strengthen its consumer and corporate lending business, the lender said.

Shares in PCF fell by around 62% to 0.4 pence in early trade following the news on Wednesday, six weeks after Castle Trust Capital withdrew its intention to make an offer for PCF.

PCF's decision to wind up its lending business underscores the challenges facing small banks in Britain, where the costs of regulation and doing business have surged and competition from dominant rivals, including Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest and HSBC, has intensified.

"This has been a very difficult strategic decision for the board to make given the consequences for the business, colleagues, customers, intermediaries and shareholders," Chief Executive of PCF Bank, Garry Stran, said in a statement.

PCF Bank, which was set up in 1994 and offers savings and finance products for around 20,000 businesses and retail customers, accelerated its review in October following a fall in half-yearly profit earlier this year.

It said it would manage its loan and savings portfolio positions down, without specifying how long that could take, and will look to reduce its cost base, possibly by selling all or parts of its loan portfolio.

To cancel the AIM listing, it must consult investors.

PCF, which has a market value just under 4 million pounds ($4.6 million), said it will continue to explore strategic transactions with interested third parties and it retained the support of Somers Limited, its biggest shareholder with a 73.24% stake.

(Reporting by Sinchita Mitra in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Sinead Cruise and Barbara Lewis)