LONDON Feb 15 In a move that might lift the
spirits of cash-strapped Britons before the next general
election, the government is considering giving away its stake in
state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland by 2015,
newspapers reported on Friday.
The government owns 82 percent of RBS after rescuing the
bank by pumping in 45 billion pounds ($70 billion) of capital
when it neared collapse in 2008.
In October the bank said it was preparing to sell the shares
in 2014, one year before the next general election, with the
timing and sale structure up to the government. No share
giveaway was mentioned.
"Plans to sell off or even 'give away' the government's
majority stake in Royal Bank of Scotland before the next
election are being drawn up by (finance minister) George
Osborne's Treasury," Britain's Independent newspaper said in an
advance copy of its Saturday front page, which gave no sourcing
Citing unnamed "Treasury sources", the Daily Mail said the
plan is being explored by Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Sajid Javid, and could involve giving shares away next year or
selling the shares to the public at a discount.
"Wouldn't it be much better if voters were getting a cheque
for 400 pounds a few months before election day? It would also
be a very big stimulus," the newspaper quoted one Conservative
source as saying.
RBS and UK Financial Investments, which looks after the
government's stake in the bank, declined to comment. The
Treasury was not immediately available for comment.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2011 backed proposals to
give the public shares in part-nationalised banks because
taxpayer money had been used to keep the banking system alive.
At the time, the Treasury said it would "look at all
options", but critics dismissed the idea as a headline-grabbing