Government cedes control of NatWest for the first time since the financial crisis


The government ceded control of NatWest for the first time after stepping in to rescue the Royal Bank of Scotland group during the financial crisis nearly a decade and a half ago.

The Treasury sold £1.2 billion worth of shares in NatWest Group – RBS renamed in 2020 – taking its stake to less than 50%.

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 step in our plan to return the bank to the private sector.

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“We will continue to prioritize value for money for the taxpayer as we move this plan forward.”

In 2008, the government began taking a stake in the group following the financial crash that left it on the brink of collapse.

The initial investment, which saw the government own 57% of the bank, was extended several times before peaking at 84% in 2009.

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The Treasury has been selling its stake since 2015, and the latest sale increases its stake from 50.6% to 48.1%.

NatWest said the latest deal saw it buy 550 million shares at around £2.21 each, the PA news agency said.

The NatWest share sale process is expected to continue for some time to come and has already taken considerably longer than the Lloyds sale.

The government’s stake in Lloyds Bank, which had risen to over 43% following the financial crash, was finally fully unwound in 2017. NatWest is far from this level.

The government received its shares in the banks in 2008 after announcing a £37bn capital injection into the sector.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown then clearly indicated that it was not an attempt to nationalize the banks, but that they would be resold “at the right time”.


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