Important information - the value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest. 

Update 28 May 2024: Please note the NatWest share offer has been postponed until further notice due to the upcoming general election. 

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Investors may be offered the chance to buy shares in one of Britain’s best-known businesses as early as this summer.

In a rerun of the hugely popular privatisations of the Thatcher era and their ‘tell Sid’-style publicity campaigns, the Government has said it intends to sell shares in NatWest Group as early as this summer.

Here we explain how the sale might work and how savers could take part.

What is this share sale and why is it taking place?

NatWest was largely nationalised during the financial crisis in 2008, when an infusion of billions of pounds from the Government was needed to prevent the bank, then known as Royal Bank of Scotland, from going bust. Now the Treasury would like to sell its remaining stake and aims to begin that process by offering NatWest shares to the public as early as this summer. It hopes to have sold all its shares by 2025-26.

By offering government-owned shares in NatWest to private savers, ministers hope to spark the same kind of interest in the stock market that Margaret Thatcher created with the privatisations of the 1980s. Along with the sale of council houses and the demutualisation of some building societies, the sale of the state’s shares in businesses such as British Gas, BP and British Telecom gave many ordinary people the chance to own assets of significant value for the first time.

The “Tell Sid" advertising campaign for the British Gas flotation came to symbolise Mrs Thatcher’s privatisation programme. In last year’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, told the House of Commons: ‘It’s time to get Sid investing again.’ Official government documents say one aim of the NatWest share sale is ‘encouraging retail investing to create a stronger savings and investment culture’.

Another is ‘to re-invigorate the UK’s capital markets through a landmark transaction’. A recent spate of companies leaving the London stock market, either for an overseas rival or to become a privately owned business, has ignited fears for the market’s future.

How does this sale of government-owned shares differ from the privatisations conducted by the Thatcher government?

When Margaret Thatcher’s government privatised the likes of British Gas and British Telecom in the 1980s, it was selling shares in companies that were not at the time quoted on the stock market. These businesses had been entirely in state ownership and their shares became available on the stock market only when the privatisations took place. Shares in NatWest, by contrast, are already quoted on the stock market and the Government is only one shareholder, alongside institutions and individuals.

How could I take part in the share sale?

We do not yet have full details from the Government about how it will make the shares available. However, the experience of earlier flotations, such as that of Royal Mail in 2013, suggests that it is likely to offer them via most of the big stockbrokers and investment platforms and via a ‘direct’ offer through the Government’s own website.

How many shares will private investors be able to buy?

This is hard to predict, because it depends on demand. In earlier flotations, some applicants received fewer shares than they wanted.

When will the share sale take place?

The sale ‘could take place this summer at the earliest’, the Government has said.

Will the share sale make any difference to how NatWest is run?

The Government’s stake is already held at ‘arm’s length’ and the state does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of the bank. However, its large stake has allowed it a big say in who runs NatWest, as we saw when Dame Alison Rose, the former chief executive, was forced to step down over the Nigel Farage ‘debanking’ scandal. Once all, or largely all, of its shares have been sold, it will no longer have that influence.

Where can I read more?

The Government has said it will keep this page updated as more details of the share sale are decided.

(%)
As at 30 April
2019-2020 2020-2021 2021-2022 2022-2023 2023-2024
NatWest Group -50.2 80.7 16.4 25.9 24.2

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.
Source:
Refinitiv, share price total returns from 30.4.19 to 30.4.24. Excludes initial charge.

Important information - investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. Reference to specific securities should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell these securities and is included for the purposes of illustration only. When you are thinking about investing in shares, it’s generally a good idea to consider holding them alongside other investments in a diversified portfolio of assets. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice.

ADVERTISEMENT. NOT AN OFFER. UK INVESTORS ONLY. Share prices may go down, you may get back less than you put in. If HM Treasury offers shares in NatWest Group plc, a prospectus will be published and made. Approval of a prospectus by the UK Financial Conduct Authority is not an endorsement of the shares being offered. You should read the prospectus before deciding to participate in the offer in order to fully understand the potential risks and rewards of investing in the shares being offered.

This advertisement has been prepared by and is the sole responsibility of Financial Administration Services Limited of Beech Gate, Millfield Lane, Lower Kingswood, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 6RP, which is an authorised person for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

No offer or invitation to purchase securities in any jurisdiction is being made by NatWest Group plc and, to the fullest extent permitted by law, each of NatWest Group plc and its directors, employees, agents and affiliates disclaim any liability or responsibility to actual or potential investors who invest in securities of NatWest Group plc pursuant to the offer by HM Treasury.

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