Ask Sid if he likes UK banks

September 22, 2009

If you see Sid, tell him. Tell him his help will be needed to swallow more UK equity than at any time since the flood of privatisations in the 1980s.

That’s the clear message from UK Financial Investments, the body that holds stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and nationalised banks. Those stakes are likely to be worth about 80 billion pounds.

“We will need to innovate, be imaginative in our approach and use the full range of sales methods available to us,” John Crompton, head of market investments at UKFI, says in a speech at Reuters offices in London.

Crompton says nothing has been decided on timing, price and how long the sell-down will take. But UKFI is expected to test investor appetite some time next year with an institution placing of several billion pounds. That could include structured transactions, including exchangeable debt issues.

Once markets stabilise, shares are likely to be offered to retail investors. That’s due to the scale of the disposal, but also to allow the public to share in any profit from the taxpayer led bail-out.

Still, “Sid” — the man on the street used to drum up interest in the privatisation of British Gas — may not be called on for another couple of years. UKFI will be keen to pitch any retail offer into stable markets to avoid repeating the BP share sale disaster, when shares were sold during the 1987 stock market crash. Taxpayers wouldn’t take that kindly.

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