Home Estate Planning Treasury could launch Natwest retail sell-off as soon as June, UKGI confirms

Treasury could launch Natwest retail sell-off as soon as June, UKGI confirms

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The Treasury could begin selling its shares in Natwest as soon as June, the body for government investments has confirmed.

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.

Holger Vieten, a director at UK Government Investments (UKGI) who is leading the sale plan, told the Treasury Committee on Tuesday that “the very earliest” the retail offer could begin “could be around summertime”, later defining this period as starting in June.

He said there was no “exact date for it” and that the Treasury had not yet approved a timeline, with the plan still “in the development and design stage”.

It is understood that the Treasury wants to start the sale after the bank installs a permanent chief executive but before the summer break.

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

Charles Donald, chief executive of UKGI, told MPs: “I think they need to provide clarity to the market on their proposals around either confirming the interim chief executive or a process around appointing a permanent chief executive.”

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

Vieten also confirmed that UKGI had hired law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Barclays and Goldman Sachs to advise on the structure, size and logistics of the retail offering.

The government acquired an 84 per cent stake in Natwest at an average of around £5 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 219p.

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.

Sky News reported last night that the Treasury had appointed communications firm M&C Saatchi to help form a publicity campaign for the retail offer.

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