Thursday 18 January 2018

UK will take 'several years' to sell its stake in RBS

Royal Bank of Scotland. Photo: PA
Royal Bank of Scotland. Photo: PA

Richard Partington

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Britain's largest taxpayer-owned bank, will take "several years" to return to full private ownership, chairman Philip Hampton said yesterday.

"There's a lot of stock to shift," Hampton told reporters on the sidelines of the bank's annual general meeting in Edinburgh.

He said the UK government could help speed up the process by offering shares in the lender to consumers.

RBS chief executive officer Ross McEwan (57) is seeking to reverse seven annual losses by focusing on UK consumer and commercial lending and shrinking the investment bank as the government prepares to sell its stake after a £45.5bn (€64.4bn) bailout.

"The beginning of the sell-down will undoubtedly be a turning point for RBS and welcomed by investors," Hampton said in his final speech to investors at an AGM before Howard Davies replaces him in September. RBS has been "fundamentally rebuilt" since it was bailed out by taxpayers and is "now a bank that is much safer in capital strength, in structure and increasingly on behaviour."

RBS gained 1.3pc to 359.5 pence in London trading yesterday, valuing the bank at about £41bn.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne may start selling about £1.4bn of shares in the bank as early as September, a person with knowledge of the matter has said.

Shareholders voted to allow RBS to spend its own funds to help prepare for a sale of the government's stake.

Unlike Lloyds Banking Group, where the government has cut its stake to less than 17pc through share sales, British taxpayers still own 79pc of RBS seven years after it was first bailed out. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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