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UK government reduces stake in NatWest to below 30%

25th Mar 2024 13:44

(Alliance News) - The UK government's stake in NatWest Group PLC has dropped to below 30% for the first time since the bank was nationalised in the 2008 financial crisis.

A stock exchange announcement on Monday confirmed that the Treasury's stake in the bank, which also owns Royal Bank of Scotland PLC (RBS) and Coutts & Co, is now 29.82%, down by a little over one percentage point.

It leaves the government with a stake worth a little under GBP7 billion.

It is a small reduction in the government's ownership of the high street lender, but passes a notable milestone.

NatWest was nationalised in 2008 and 2009, with several multibillion-pound bailouts leaving the government with an 84% stake in the company, which at the time was known as the RBS Group.

Having for a short period of time become the world's largest bank, in early October 2008 RBS was running on fumes.

On the morning of October 7 that year a call from then chair Tom KcKillop informed the then chancellor, Alistair Darling, that the group was going to run out of money later that day.

To avoid a catastrophic collapse of RBS, the Bank of England stepped in to lend it several billion pounds. The next day the government said that it would take a GBP20 billion stake in the bank.

Since then, not wanting to own a bank, the government has slowly sold down its stake in NatWest. Initially this took a long time, but in recent months it has sped up the sell-off.

In 2018 the government still owned 62% of the group, which had fallen to 45.9% at the end of 2022, and 37.98% on December 31 last year.

Earlier this month the government said that it plans to have sold all the shares in the year ending March 2026. It could start selling off shares to retail investors.

NatWest said: "We welcome the government's continued commitment to returning NatWest Group to private ownership.

"With the government shareholding now below 30%, we have been pleased with the recent momentum to achieving this shared ambition, which we believe is in the best interests of the bank and our shareholders."

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Bim Afolami said: "This is a significant milestone demonstrating we're making excellent progress on fully returning NatWest to private ownership.

"In addition to our successful trading plan, we are now looking ahead to a retail offering of NatWest shares which could come as soon as this summer, subject to market conditions and value for money."

NatWest shares fell 1.0% to 258.40 pence each on Monday afternoon in London.

By August Graham, PA Business Reporter

Press Association: Finance

source: PA

Copyright 2024 Alliance News Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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