UK extends plan to sell NatWest-RBS taxpayer stake

NatWest-RBS HQ at Gogarburn in Edinburgh

The UK government’s trading plan to sell the taxpayers’ remaining shareholding in NatWest Group, formerly the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, has been extended for another 12 months.

The UK Treasury said on Wednesday the UK will only dispose of its remaining 48.5% shareholding in NatWest “when it represents value for money to do so and market conditions allow.”

NatWest shares rose about 4% to around £23 to give the company a current stock market value of about £24 billion. The shares are up about 13% for the past 12 months.

So far, 703.5 million shares have been sold through the trading plan, raising approximately £1.6 billion for the taxpayer.

All sales of NatWest shares to date have been made well below the share price at which it was bailed out during the financial crisis.

The Morgan Stanley-run trading plan, which involves drip-feeding share sales into the market, is one of the UK government’s main methods of reducing its stake, alongside the occasional sales of larger tranches of shares to private investors or directly to NatWest.

“The current trading plan which began on 12 August 2021 has been extended for a further 12 months from 12 August 2022, with sales terminating no later than 11 August 2023,” said the Treasury.

“Extending the trading plan supports the government’s intention to return NatWest Group to full private ownership by 2025-26, after acquiring the shareholding as a result of the global financial crisis.

“The government currently has a c. 48.5% shareholding in NatWest Group and will only dispose of its NatWest Group shareholding when it represents value for money to do so and market conditions allow …

“Shares will continue to only be sold through the trading plan at a price that represents value for money for taxpayers.

“There is a cap on the total number of shares that could be sold through the trading plan (up to 15% of the aggregate traded volume over the extension period).

“The final number of shares sold will depend on, amongst other factors, the share price and market conditions throughout its duration.

“HMT and UK Government Investments continue to keep all options and timings under review for future sales.

“Extending the trading plan does not preclude government from using other options to execute future transactions that achieve value for money for taxpayers, including further directed buybacks and/or accelerated bookbuilds.”