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Financial Services Update

Volume 711: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2022

I can today inform the House of the disposal of approximately £1.2 billion worth of Government-owned NatWest Group plc—formerly Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS—shares, representing approximately 4.91% of the company, by way of a directed buyback transaction.

Approximately £1.2 billion worth of shares were sold to NatWest in a single bilateral transaction on 28 March 2022.

The Government remaining shareholding represents approximately 48.1% of voting rights in the company, meaning that for the first time since the financial crisis NatWest is no longer under majority public ownership.


It is Government policy that where a Government asset no longer serves a public policy purpose the Government may choose to sell that asset, subject to being able to achieve value for money. This frees up public resource which can be deployed to achieve other public policy objectives.

The Government are committed to returning NatWest to full private ownership, given that the original policy objective for the intervention in NatWest—to preserve financial and economic stability at a time of crisis—has long been achieved. The Government only conducts sales of NatWest shares when it represents value for money to do so and market conditions allow. This sale represents a landmark for Government in exiting the assets acquired as a result of the 2007 to 2008 financial crisis, as it takes the Government’s shareholding below 50%.

Format and timing

The Government, supported by advice from UK Government Investments, concluded that selling shares to NatWest, in a single bilateral transaction, represented value for money.

Share buybacks are a common practice undertaken by companies looking to efficiently deploy their excess capital. On 6 February 2019, NatWest obtained shareholder authority to purchase shares held by Government at market price. This authority was renewed at subsequent NatWest annual general meetings in April 2019, April 2020 and April 2021.

This is the fifth large block sale of NatWest shares undertaken by the Government, following previous disposals in August 2015, June 2018, March 2021 and May 2021. This is the second sale of shares via an off-market share sale directly to the company.

The sale concluded on 28 March 2022, with NatWest purchasing a limited number of its Government owned shares. A total of approximately 550 million shares, approximately 4.91% of the bank, were sold at the 25 March 2022 closing price of 220.5p per share. The reduction in the Government’s shareholding is less than the percentage sold following the cancellation of shares by NatWest. Following this transaction the Government shareholding stands at approximately 48.1%.

Details of the sale are summarised below:

Government stake in NWG pre-sale

c.5,669 million shares

Total shares sold to NWG

c.550 million shares

Share price at market close on 25/03/2022


Total proceeds from the sale

c.£1.2 billion

Government stake in NWG post-sale (as % of total voting rights)

c.48.1 %

Fiscal impacts

The net impacts of the sale on a selection of fiscal metrics are summarised as follows:



Net sale proceeds


Retention value range

Within the valuation range


Public Sector Net Borrowing

There may be future indirect impacts as a result of the sale. The sale proceeds reduce public sector debt. All else being equal, the sale will reduce future debt interest costs for Government.

The reduction in Government’s shareholding means it will not receive future dividend income it may otherwise have been entitled to through these shares.

Public Sector Net Debt


Public Sector Net Financial Liabilities


Public Sector Net Liabilities