Government is likely to stagger bank stake sales

THE government is likely to sell its stakes in state-backed banks Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland in several tranches, a senior Treasury civil servant said.

“As and when these shares are sold into the market, just the sheer scale of the holdings will make this, I think, the biggest UK share sale ever,” Nicholas Macpherson, permanent secretary to the Treasury, told a parliamentary committee yesterday.

“I do not want to prejudge the future, but my guess is you would do it in a series of tranches and you would be very much trying to test the market,” he said.

Asked about bonuses some RBS staff were likely to receive, Treasury official Tom Scholar said it was necessary to pay market rates to keep skilled staff and, ultimately, secure a decent return for taxpayers.

“Maintaining shareholder value is critical to getting value for money for the taxpayer,” Scholar said.

“If we want to sell our shareholding and make a decent return on it, we need top quality management... because of the market in which these people operate, I am afraid we have to pay them more than the Prime Minister’s salary.”