News

UK Government reduces stake in Ulster Bank parent NatWest to below 30%

The Treasury hopes it can sell its last shares in the bank formerly known as RBS by early 2026.

The Government has again reduced its stake in NatWest
NatWest is the parent owner of Ulster Bank. (Matt Crossick/PA)

The UK Government’s stake in NatWest Group has dropped to below 30% for the first time since the bank was nationalised in the 2008 financial crisis.

A stock exchange announcement on Monday confirmed that the Treasury’s stake in the bank, which also owns Ulster Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Coutts, is now 29.82%, down by a little over one percentage point.

It leaves the Government with a stake worth a little under £7 billion.

It is a small reduction in the Government’s ownership of the high street lender, but passes a notable milestone.

NatWest was nationalised in 2008 and 2009, with several multibillion-pound bailouts leaving the Government with an 84% stake in the company, which at the time was known as the RBS Group.

RBS expanded to be the world’s largest bank at one point under former boss Fred Goodwin
RBS AGM RBS expanded to be the world’s largest bank at one point under former boss Fred Goodwin (Danny Lawson/PA)

Having for a short period of time become the world’s largest bank, in early October 2008 RBS was running on fumes.

On the morning of October 7 that year a call from then chairman Sir Tom KcKillop informed the then Chancellor, Alistair Darling, that the group was going to run out of money later that day.

To avoid a catastrophic collapse of RBS, the Bank of England stepped in to lend it several billion pounds. The next day the Government said that it would take a £20 billion stake in the bank.



Since then, not wanting to own a bank, the Government has slowly sold down its stake in NatWest. Initially this took a long time, but in recent months it has sped up the sell-off.

In 2018 the Government still owned 62% of the group, which had fallen to 45.9% at the end of 2022, and 37.98% on December 31 last year.

Earlier this month the Government said that it plans to have sold all the shares in the year ending March 2026. It could start selling off shares to retail investors.

NatWest said: “We welcome the Government’s continued commitment to returning NatWest Group to private ownership.

“With the Government shareholding now below 30%, we have been pleased with the recent momentum to achieving this shared ambition, which we believe is in the best interests of the bank and our shareholders.”

Economic secretary to the Treasury Bim Afolami said: “This is a significant milestone demonstrating we’re making excellent progress on fully returning NatWest to private ownership.

“In addition to our successful trading plan, we are now looking ahead to a retail offering of NatWest shares which could come as soon as this summer, subject to market conditions and value for money.”