Tories eye RBS, Lloyds investors - report

LONDON Mon Sep 14, 2009 11:05am BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Shadow chancellor George Osborne is looking at selling a tranche of shares in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group to retail investors, the Financial Times reported.

Osbourne, Chancellor Alistair Darling's counterpart in the Conservative Party, is examining options for disposing of the government stakes in the two banks as he eyes a privatisation programme for an incoming Tory government.

Putting more ordinary voters on the banks' shares registers is "one of the options we are looking at," the newspaper quoted an aide to Mr Osborne as saying.

Both Osbourne and Darling have suggested any sale of the government stakes would be staged over a number of years, the FT said.

Separately, RBS may relaunch its Williams & Glyn's retail banking network, which it could then put up for sale as part of its response to a European Commission probe into state aid, the Sunday Times reported.

Williams & Glyn's had 330 branches, mostly in northwest England, when it disappeared from the high street 24 years ago. The sale of the brand, which still exists as a legal entity, would reduce RBS' market share in retail and commercial banking.

Some 30 European banks might have to divest assets and hold back on acquisitions to gain EU regulatory approval for their state bailouts under tough new rules on government aid unveiled in July.

Asked about a possible Williams & Glyn's relaunch, an RBS spokesman said the bank did not comment on speculation.

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