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May 3, 2013 1:20 am
Royal Bank of Scotland is poised to send the clearest signal yet that it is ready for the government to begin reprivatising its majority stake.
Sir Philip Hampton, chairman, will announce on Friday that the state-backed bank will be ready to start preparing information on a share sale as soon as next year.
RBS, 82 per cent of which is owned by the taxpayer, has previously indicated that next year will be a suitable time to consider the future of the government’s stake.
Sir Philip will not be calling on the government to begin a reprivatisation, and the statement does not indicate that the bank believes its share price will have reached the government “in-price” – the range at which the state bought its shares, which stands between 410p and 500p depending on calculation methods – by the middle of next year.
However, his message, to be delivered as the bank reports first-quarter results, will be a clear indication that it is on the final stretch of one of the world’s biggest corporate restructurings, following its £45bn bailout at the height of the financial crisis. Shares in RBS closed at 307p on Thursday.
The question of when the Treasury will decide to begin reprivatising the stake has become the subject of intense debate.
Senior Tories are arguing that the taxpayers’ interest may be best served by getting out of the banking sector before the general election in 2015.
The Treasury is considering a “Tell Sid” privatisation campaign, involving members of the public, a plan that would allow voters to share in the upside of a future recovery in the share price.
The bank is expected to report one of its strongest quarterly profits when it discloses results for the first three months of 2013. It will not make any fresh provision to compensate for mis-sold payment protection insurance, in common with Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group, which reported first-quarter results last month.
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