Retail offer

Hunt may trigger sale of NatWest shares in June

RBS was bailed out by the taxpayer and group later rebranded as NatWest (pic: Terry Murden)

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to launch his “Tell Sid” share sale in NatWest/RBS shares as early as June in a bid to help revive investment in the stock market and bolster the public finances.

Mr Hunt revealed his plan for 1980s-style privatisation during his autumn statement in November. A retail offering of the bank’s shares is now being put out for market research to assess public attitude towards a sale.

Following the sale of some shares last week, taxpayers currently own 36% per cent of NatWest which remains from the 2008 bailout of the bank, then known as Royal Bank of Scotland.

The 84% original stake has been scaled back through a series of sales to big institutional investors or by the bank buying its shares back from the government.

NatWest shares were bought for an average of 500p and currently trade at 224p, valuing it at about £20 billion.

Walnut Unlimited, a research group which has also worked for the BBC, is expected to provide feedback by 31 January a final report by February 9.

A government spokesman said: “As the chancellor set out at the autumn statement, we are exploring options for a NatWest retail sale over the next 12 months, subject to market conditions and achieving value for money. We will provide further details at the appropriate time.”

City sources were surprised at Mr Hunt floating the idea of a retail offer so close to the departure of chief executive Dame Alison Rose who admitted her role in the controversy surrounding former UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s bank account.

Analysts have also questioned whether the currently subdued market makes it a good time to launch a major share offer. Flotations and capital raising exercises have been thin on the ground.

The “Tell Sid” campaign was launched in the mid-1980s to promote the sale of shares in British Gas.

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