The UK Government’s stake in NatWest Group, owner of Royal Bank of Scotland, has been further trimmed.

NatWest announced yesterday that the public’s shareholding in the Edinburgh-headquartered bank is now below 27%, as a result of its ongoing trading plan.

It came less than a month after the stake had dipped below 28% and ahead of an expected retail sale of the UK Government’s shares in the bank in a “Tell Sid” style offer later this year.

The bank fell into public ownership when it was bailed out by the state at the height of the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. The shareholding stood at 45.9% at the end of 2022, but by December 2023 it had fallen to 37.98% through a combination of a daily trading plan and a £1.3 billion directed buyback on May 22 last year.

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Speaking as the bank announced its results for the first quarter last month, chief executive Paul Thwaite said: "We are pleased with the recent momentum in the reduction of HM Treasury's stake in the bank.

"Returning NatWest Group to private ownership is a shared ambition and we believe it is in the best interests of both the bank and all our shareholders."

When asked by one reporter if he had heard of Tell Sid, the catchphrase of the campaign used in the 1980s to promote the sale of shares in British Gas, Mr Thwaite said: “Being candid with you, I do vaguely remember Tell Sid, but I should admit I was pretty young when that happened.

“More seriously, and more importantly, I think the retail share offer, should it happen, is an important opportunity, because it further reduces the [government] shareholding.”

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The prospect of the lender making a full return to private hands is inching closer after Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt signalled a retail offer of the Government’s stake could take place as early as this summer. It would bring an end to what chairman NatWest chairman Rick Haythornthwaite described this week as a “sorry tale” of government involvement in the institution.