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Latest NatWest share sale takes government stake below 50%

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NatWest is no longer under majority public ownership following the latest ‘landmark’ sale.

As part of the fifth sale of the government’s NatWest Group shareholding (formerly Royal Bank of Scotland Group), it has reduced its stake from 50.6% to 48.1%.

This means for the first time since the financial crisis, the government is no longer the majority shareholder of the bank.

UK Government Investments – created to ensure that state and partly state-owned banks are run free from government interference – sold approximately 550 million shares in NatWest at 220.5p per share, raising a total of £1.2bn.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said: “This sale means that the government is no longer the majority owner of NatWest Group and is therefore an important landmark in our plan to return the bank to the private sector.

“We will continue to prioritise delivering value for money for the taxpayer as we take forward this plan.”

The government bailout of the bank in 2008 and 2009 resulted in it acquiring an 84% stake (£46bn).

At the height of the financial crisis, the government paid 500p per share (£4.63bn). In the first tranche of the RBS share sale in 2015, they sold for 330p per share, leading to a loss of £1.1bn.

It resulted in the Treasury Select Committee writing to the National Audit Office asking it to review the advice provided to the government over the sale of RBS shares as “both the public and parliament want reassurance that the decision to sell provided the “best value for money for the taxpayer”.”

Following the March Budget 2021, the government confirmed it intended to fully dispose of NatWest shareholding by 2025/26, “subject to market conditions and any sale achieving value for money”.

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