NatWest may ‘tell Sid’ to buy shares in June

NatWest may ‘tell Sid’ to buy shares in June
The sale of shares in NatWest to the general public could happen as early as June, UK Government Investments (UKGI) has confirmed.

The Treasury still owns 35% of the bank since it bailed it out to the tune of £46bn during the 2008 financial crisis.

But UKGI, the company responsible for government investments, has been exploring a share sale since the chancellor announced plans last year.

Jeremy Hunt has said any sale would need to achieve “full value for money”.
On Tuesday, Holger Vieten, who is in charge of selling the government’s shares in NatWest, told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that the process “potentially could happen” as early as June.
“The very earliest could be around summer time, but we don’t have an exact date,” the UKGI director said.

Since NatWest, previously known as Royal Bank of Scotland, was bailed out in 2008, the government has been gradually reducing its shareholding in the bank. Shares have so far been sold to institutional investors and back to NatWest itself.

The government said early in 2023 that it wanted to sell its remaining stake in the bank by 2025 or 2026, and in his Autumn Statement in November Mr Hunt said he wanted to explore options for a share offering aimed at the general public.

The chancellor referenced the 1986 “Tell Sid” advertising campaign, in which characters urged each other to “tell Sid” about the chance to buy shares in British Gas.

The move prompted hundreds of thousands of people to buy shares in the energy firm, one of several companies privatised under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

“If you see Sid, tell him” was an ad campaign in 1986 for the sale of British Gas shares
Thousands ‘told Sid’ 25 years ago

NatWest shares could be sold to public, says Hunt

Mr Vieten said UKGI had hired advisers, including legal and banking experts, to work out options for a share sale before a proposal would be presented to ministers to decide on.

He said there were several “windows” for a retail offer, but added the company had not come to any firm conclusions.

“It’s very much a work in progress,” he said.

MPs also raised the fact that NatWest has still not appointed a permanent chief executive following the high-profile resignation of Dame Alison Rose after a row over the closure of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s bank account.

Dame Alison quit in July last year after admitting she made a mistake in speaking about Mr Farage’s relationship with the bank, and her successor Paul Thwaite was only handed the reins for an initial 12-month period.

“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 for the market to be comfortable,” said Charles Donald, chief executive of UKGI.

The BBC understands the process of appointing a permanent chief executive is under way.
Richard Haythornthwaite is also to succeed Sir Howard Davies as NatWest Group chairman in April.


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