RBS fi­nance chief warns on tim­ing of sell-down

Western Mail - - BUSINESS WALES -

ROYAL Bank of Scot­land’s out­go­ing fi­nance chief has cau­tioned that now is not the “op­ti­mum” time for the Gov­ern­ment to sell down the tax­payer’s stake in the lender.

Ewen Steven­son said the re­cent slump in Euro­pean stocks – sparked in part by jit­ters over the rise of Eu­roscep­tic par­ties in Italy – might be a cause for pause as the Gov­ern­ment pre­pares to pri­va­tise its near 72% stake in the bank.

Speak­ing on the side­lines of RBS’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Ed­in­burgh, Mr Steven­son said the UK Gov­ern­ment “don’t talk to us about what their sell-down in­ten­tions are”.

How­ever, the out­go­ing chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer played down re­ports that a 10% stake sell-off may be im­mi­nent.

The Gov­ern­ment is hop­ing to sell £15bn worth of shares by 2023, around two-thirds of its stake.

How­ever, it is fac­ing a near£26.2bn loss on its hold­ing, with the lender’s shares lan­guish­ing well be­low the av­er­age 502p share price paid dur­ing the cri­sis era bailout, at around 276p.

The bank un­ex­pect­edly is­sued a mar­ket up­date on Wed­nes­day to an­nounce Mr Steven­son’s res­ig­na­tion just hours be­fore the RBS AGM.

The state-owned bank said Mr Steven­son re­signed from his role to “take up an op­por­tu­nity else­where”.

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