Investors scramble for Royal Mail shares

ROYAL Mail last night shut the order book on its historic £3.3bn privatisation, with the postal service’s 497-year stint as a public body set to end when it joins the London Stock Exchange on Friday.

Unprecedented demand has seen hundreds of thousands of retail investors scrambling for shares in the massively oversubscribed state sell-off, the biggest privatisation since John Major sold the railways in the 1990s. Investors have been urged on by a grey market valuation thats suggests Royal Mail shares could instantly jump by 20 per cent when the company lists on Friday.

Meanwhile, despite years of campaigning against the sell-off, it was yesterday revealed that just 368 of the post service’s 150,000 staff have turned down the offer of free shares in the business, worth more than £2,000 per person.

Brokers were overwhlemed last night as individual investors rushed to beat the midnight deadline for applications. Demand overwhelmed the telephone system at Hargreaves Lansdown, with would-be investors struggling to get through to the company’s call centres yesterday evening.

But even those who entered their applications on time could see their orders radically scaled back. The government yesterday insisted it would do all it could to ensure that individuals receive as many shares as possible, despite strong demand from institutional investors.

It is thought that ministers want to ensure all individual investors receive at least the minimum £750 investment.