Home Estate Planning Government could launch Natwest public share sale this summer

Government could launch Natwest public share sale this summer

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The government is preparing to start selling its shares in Natwest to retail investors as soon as the middle of this year, City A.M. understands.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in his Autumn Statement last November that the government would explore a “Tell Sid”-style plan to offer its shares in the Big Four lender to the general public in the next 12 months.

City Minister Bim Afolami told City A.M. last week that the Treasury was “going to take forward” the plan “at some point in the next few months”.

Shares are expected to be priced at a discount to make them more appealing to retail investors.

Government insiders told the Financial Times that Afolami wanted to start the sale after the bank installs a permanent chief executive but before the summer break.

Interim CEO Paul Thwaite is due to remain in his position until at least July and is a top contender for the permanent job.

The government acquired an 84 per cent stake in Natwest at an average of 499p per share to rescue it during the financial crisis in 2008 and has been gradually unwinding its position ever since. It plans to fully privatise the bank by 2026.

Although the Treasury has repeatedly stressed that it will not sell its stake for an unfair price, taxpayers have lost out as Natwest’s shares have tumbled more than 27 per cent in the last 12 months to 224p.

The stock fell below 200p last October and November as the bank suffered from weak third-quarter results and the fallout of a row with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage over the closure of his Coutts account.

Then chief executive Dame Alison Rose resigned last July after she admitted to discussing the Brexiteer’s Coutts account with the BBC.

The government can offload its shares in the bank in several different ways, including block sales to market investors, regular sales through its trading plan and buybacks by Natwest itself.

It offloaded 91m shares to reduce its stake to 36.94 per cent in a steady drip between 8 December 2023 and 2 January 2024.

A Treasury spokesperson told City A.M.: “As the Chancellor set out at Autumn Statement, we are exploring options for a Natwest retail offer over the next 12 months, subject to market conditions and achieving value for money. We will provide further details at the appropriate time.”

Natwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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