View Details << Back

Taxpayer no longer majority NatWest shareholder

  The taxpayer is no longer the majority shareholder in Natwest after it sold £1.2bn worth of shares in the group.
The group, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), was rescued at the height of the 2008 financial crisis with a £45bn government bailout.
Following the sale of a chunk of its shares, government ownership in Natwest is now at 48.1% - down from 50.6%.
The sale was an "important landmark" in its plan to return the bank to full private ownership, the Treasury said.
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown said the share sale came at time when "the government sorely needs the cash with the costs of borrowing mounting".
When the financial crisis struck in 2008, the government started to build a stake in the then RBS Group which was teetering on the brink of collapse.
The initial investment, which resulted in the government owning 57% of the bank, was extended a couple of times before peaking at 84% in 2009.
Since 2015, the Treasury has been selling off its stake and the process of selling off NatWest shares is likely to continue for some time to come.
The government's remaining stake in NatWest, which fluctuates depending on the share price, is around £11bn.
It has already taken considerably longer than disposal of the public ownership of Lloyds, which was finally unwound in 2017.
Ms Streeter told the BBC the government had taken a hit on the price of NatWest's shares.
She said the government had raised about £8bn so far from its stakes sold, which represented a "huge loss" to taxpayers, given the £45bn bailout.
"It's clear that bailing out the company has come at a huge cost to the taxpayer, with the government expected to be sitting on a loss of at least £26bn," she said.
However, Ms Streeter said in the depths of the financial crisis, the bailout was "considered to be the price to pay for protecting the wider economy from severe repercussions, which at the time was feared could bring the banking system crashing down, causing even further damage to the economy".