LONDON (Reuters) - The government may start selling its stakes in banks bailed out during the crisis with a 5 billion pound Royal Bank of Scotland share sale as early as the first half of 2012, the Sunday Telegraph said.
The report, which cited sources close to the process, said this possible RBS stake sale would target institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East and Far East.
Officials at the Treasury could not be immediately reached for comment on the report.
The government finished with stakes of 83 percent in RBS and around 40 percent in rival Lloyds after bailing out both banks with billions of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money during the credit crisis.
The coalition government wants to sell back those stakes to the private sector eventually, raising cash to cut Britain’s deficit, but has added any sales are unlikely until the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) publishes a final report on the sector in September.
The commission said in an interim report last month that Britain’s top banks should shield retail operations from riskier investment banking activities and should boost capital levels to protect taxpayers from future crises.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani said in February that Qatar was open to buying stakes in RBS and Lloyds and had discussed investing in the UK.
RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester said earlier this month that any disposal of the UK’s RBS stake remained some way off.
“I don’t believe it (the government) is preparing anything with a definitive eye....We’ve had no conversations with investors, specifically, with this in mind,” he said at the RBS first-quarter results presentation.
Separately, the Financial Times said in its Monday edition that Hester has told senior colleagues he planned to stay in the job for up to eight years amid rumours that he could quit within 18 months.
“He’s determined to stay until the bank is fully rehabilitated and sustainably profitable,” the FT quoted an unnamed source close to Hester as saying.
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta. Additional reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Diane Craft