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NatWest Rises as U.K. Government Delays Stake Sell Down

Published 06/22/2022, 04:40 AM
Updated 06/22/2022, 04:41 AM
© Reuters

By Geoffrey Smith -- NatWest (LON:NWG) stock rose early Wednesday in London as the U.K. government said it will delay selling down its stake in the lender.

By 04:40 a.m. ET (0840 GMT), NatWest shares were trading 3.5% higher, making them the best performing stock in the FTSE 100 on a day when the latest relief rally in global stocks ran into a familiar pattern of fresh selling.

U.K. Government Investments, which manages the government's stake, said it will extend the current Trading Plan by another 12 months to August 2023 to "effect a measured and orderly sell-down." 

The government has sold around 1.6 billion pounds in NatWest stock since announcing its trading plan last year. While it is eager to end its period as an owner of the country's largest bank, it has to balance that objective against the risk of pushing down the share price if it sells too much, too fast. That risk has risen as overall market conditions have turned bearish in recent months - even if NatWest has largely escaped the carnage, thanks to the fact that rising interest rates help the profitability of its core lending business.

The trading plan contains the requirement that shares are not sold at a price below what the government considers 'value for money' for U.K. taxpayers, but that price isn't public.

NatWest shares are roughly flat for the year to date, barely outperforming the FTSE 100 which has fallen 4%. 

The U.K. government currently owns a 48% stake in the bank, thanks to its bailout in 2008 of what was then known as Royal Bank of Scotland Group, the most expensive government-sponsored bank rescue in the U.K.'s history.

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