LONDON (AP) — The British government said Monday it will start selling its majority stake in taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland — the first step in recovering money from the country's costliest-ever bank rescue.
The UK Financial Investments, which manages the government's stakes in banks bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis, will start immediately by placing to large investors a 5.2 percent stake in the bank — worth about 2 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) at Monday's share price.
As a result, the government's overall holding will be reduced from 78.3 percent to approximately 73.2 percent.
Treasury Chief George Osborne had earlier this year outlined plans to sell part of its stake in RBS.
Even though RBS's shares are trading for less than the government paid for them, some analysts believe selling a small stake now will make it easier and more profitable to sell the rest of the government holding in the future.
The Treasury injected about 45.8 billion pounds ($70.6 billion) into RBS in 2008 and 2009 to keep the bank solvent during the global financial crisis. RBS has paid the government about 6.2 billion pounds in dividends and fees since that investment.
The government's stake is currently valued at 31.2 billion pounds. That means the government would lose 8.4 billion pounds if the entire stake was sold at Monday's closing price of 337.6 pence.
A previous report by investment bank Rothschild in June had estimated the government would lose 7.2 billion pounds if the government's stake was sold at current prices. But the share price has fallen since then.