| LONDON, April 29
LONDON, April 29 Britain said it expects to
appoint lead bank advisers for a possible stock market listing
of Royal Mail Group by the end of May, as it pushes on
with plans to privatise the firm.
In what would be one of the most significant privatisations
of a British asset since John Major's Conservative government
sold the railways in the 1990s, Business Minister Michael Fallon
said on Monday a listing is the preferred method of sale for
government and that investor feedback so far had been positive.
An initial public offering (IPO) of the group, which has
around 150,000 staff and sales of 9.5 billion pounds ($14.72
billion), is expected to take place this autumn, with British
media reports valuing it at between 2 and 3 billion pounds.
In a speech to the Policy Exchange, Fallon said Royal Mail
would also soon begin exploring access to debt market capital.
Momentum behind privatising Royal Mail has increased since
government took on its hefty pension deficit last year and the
firm received regulatory approval to rise some stamp prices. It
says it needs access to external capital for future investment.
The group posted half-year operating profit of 144 million
pounds in November, up from 12 million pounds a year before,
after reshaping the company towards a growing parcels market and
away from declining letter volumes.
Included in a sale will be a 10 percent stake reserved for
Royal Mail workers, in what would be the largest employee share
scheme for 25 years, the government said. It has yet to clarify
if shares would be free or at a discounted price.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents
120,000 Royal Mail workers, has fiercely opposed government's
privatisation plans, fearing it would lead to a break-up of the
company, job losses and worse terms and conditions.
Last December Royal Mail, which has shed around 50,000 staff
in the last decade, enlisted Bank of America Merrill Lynch
and Goldman Sachs to work alongside Barclays
as its financial advisers. UBS has been advising the