UK has not set targets for bank stake sales -UKFI

LONDON, Sept 22 Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:36am BST

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LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The UK government has not set a sale timetable or revenue targets for its shares in Britain's part- and fully nationalised banks, reducing the risks attached to a disposal, an official at the body managing the stakes said.

John Crompton, head of market investments at UK Financial Investments (UKFI), said there were no targets along the lines of those set by Margaret Thatcher's government at the height of the 1980s privatisation spree.

"We are not acting under direction regarding the price at which we can sell or the rate at which we should sell. Unlike the position 25 years ago, the Treasury is very cautious about assuming proceeds from transactions which are inherently uncertain in making projections for public finances," he told a conference organised by IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication.

"There are no projections, no assumptions, and hence no targets to hit. This greatly reduces the risk of our undertaking transactions which do not represent best value for the taxpayer," he said on Tuesday.

His comments are likely to go some way to ease industry speculation of pressure from the current Labour government to at least begin the disposal process ahead of a general election, due by next June, and possibly before markets stabilise.

UKFI, set up last December, handles Britain's 70 percent stake in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and its 43 percent holding in Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) which it got after pumping 37 billion pounds into the lenders.

UKFI, described by its former boss Glen Moreno as a "Fidelity with nuclear weapons" will also manage fully-nationalised bank Northern Rock and failed mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley's loan book, pending European approval. (Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Steve Slater; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)