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Osborne admits RBS regrets and seeks quick sale

Chancellor George Osborne says he regrets not restructuring Royal Bank of Scotland in 2010, and wants to sell the Government’s stake in the bank as quickly as possible.

In an interview with the FT, Osborne says he went along with RBS’s insistence that its investment bank would be a viable, global business.

He says: “I certainly regret that. I did what I could to correct it.”

Osborne oversaw the departure of RBS’s chief executive Stephen Hester in 2013 and the refocusing of the organisation as a UK retail bank under Ross McEwan.

The chancellor says he would like to proceed “as quickly as we can to get rid of it”, after the general election. The Government owns 79 per cent of RBS after it was forced to bail out the bank to the tune of £45bn during the financial crisis.

Osborne says: “When I say ‘get rid of it’, I mean put it into the good hands of the private sector.”

But he says the sale could take years to complete given the size of the Government’s stake.

He says: “First, it’s not an exact science, but on some measures it’s bigger than all the privatisations of the 1980s put together.

“Second, I think people want to see they get their money back. The British taxpayer wants to feel they haven’t suffered some enormous loss.

“So there are constraints around it, but it’s certainly something I would want to get moving on in the summer after the election. I would want to see a review on a plan for disposal.”

To recover the £45bn money pumped into RBS in 2008, the Government would need to sell the shares at an average of 455p apiece. The shares currently trade at 373p, but have come close to 404p in the past month.

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