NatWest could sell shares as early as June

The sale of shares in NatWest to the public could happen as early as June, the UK Government Investments (UKGI) has stated.

Currently, 39% of the bank is owned by the Treasury, after it was bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis for around £46bn.

The UKGI has been exploring the idea of selling shares in NatWest after the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP, stated during the Autumn Budget in November that its sale would need to achieve "full value for money".

Discussing the sale with the Treasury Select Committee, director of the UKGI, Holger Vieten, who is in charge of selling Government shares in NatWest, said of the sale that "the very earliest could be around summer, be we don’t have an exact date".

The Chancellor referred to the 1986 ‘Tell Sid’ campaign when first announcing these potential plans, which saw hundreds of thousands of people buying shares in British Gas when it was privatised under Margaret Thatcher's Government.

The news follows on from “disappointing” Q3 results for NatWest, which saw profits hits £866m, below the predicted £891m set by analysts.

Head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, Susannah Streeter, said: "The Government is gearing up to launch the highest-profile public share offer since the Royal Mail IPO more than a decade ago. With confirmation from UKGI that the sale of NatWest shares could happen as early as June, it’s clear it’s all systems go to get the process off the ground.

"The hope is that retail investors will be enthused about the opportunity to own shares in the bank, which was taken over by the government at the height of the financial crisis, and has been sold back to institutional investors, bit by bit.

"Exactly how the share scheme would be run is still a source of speculation. It’s likely there will be more details laid out by Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor in the Budget on 6 March. There are some clues from the shelved Lloyds plan. Speculation at the time was that people would have had the option to apply for between £250 and £10,000 worth of shares, and a discount of around 5% would then have been applied. It’s also still unclear what the share sale will mean for existing investors, and whether there may be another form of rights issue run alongside with a discount to reward holders."

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