George Osborne regrets mistakes over RBS and looks to sell up quick

Guy Bentley
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Osborne admits errors (Source: Getty)

George Osborne has conceded he made an error not reforming the state-owned bank RBS when the coalition took power in 2010.

Speaking to the Financial Times Weekend Magazine the chancellor said he hopes to move forward "as quickly as we can to get rid of it".

He added that he regretted acquiescing to the view that RBS could maintain its standing as investment banking giant with a presence all over the world. "I certainly regret that" he said.

The government retains a massive 80 per cent stake in the bank, that was bailed out to the tune of £45bn in 2008. "When I say ‘get rid of it’, I mean put it into the good hands of the private sector" Osborne told the FT.

The chancellor emphasised the scale of the task by adding "it’s not an exact science, but on some measures it’s bigger than all the privatisations of the 1980s put together". It could take years until the taxpayer is fully rid of RBS.

Osborne is determined though that the bank will not the taxpayer will not lose out. "I think people want to see they get their money back. The British taxpayer wants to feel they haven’t suffered some enormous loss" he said.

It hasn't all been bad news for RBS of late. While the bank did recently report a £3.5bn loss, it was primarily thanks to one-off items. The loss was also significantly down from last year's £8.2bn.

The bank's share price gradually been edging up and breached 400p in January. The government would need to sell up at 455p per share to protect the taxpayer from a loss.

The bank is preparing to exit a further 25 countries, bringing the total number down to 13.

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