Osborne starts to offload RBS with £2bn sale

Michael Bow
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MINISTERS last night fired the starting gun on returning Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to private hands, offloading a £2bn stake in the bank seven years after it was rescued by taxpayers.

The government is selling a 5.2 per cent of the high street lender, equivalent to 600m shares, to take its interests down to 73.2 per cent.

Following the sale, the state will still be left with a stake in RBS worth around £32bn.

Chancellor George Osborne gave the go-ahead for the sell-off just days after the bank revealed an encouraging set of profits, pointing to a steady turnaround in the health of the wounded group.

It marks the first step in the rehabilitation of the company after it was rescued in 2008 by a £45bn government bailout.

Shares at the time were worth 502p, but have since tumbled to 337.60p, crystallising a loss for the government.

Osborne signalled the plans for RBS in his Mansion House speech by saying the taxpayer “may get a lower price than Labour paid for it”. Bankers from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and UBS hit the phones after markets closed last night to flog the shares at a 2.3 per cent discount to City fund managers.

RBS shares slid 1.34 per cent during trading yesterday as investors held off from buying shares in anticipation of the sale.

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