Spring Budget: Hunt reiterates commitment to NatWest retail share offer

The NatWest shares could go on sale as early as this summer, with the government committed to exiting its stake in the bank by 2025/26.

A general exterior view of a branch of NatWest Bank on the high street
(Image credit: John Keeble)

In his Budget speech before a crowded House of Commons, Jeremy Hunt announced a string of measures, including a 2p National Insurance cut, changes to the child benefit scheme, and the launch of a new British ISA.

He also reiterated the government’s plans to launch a NatWest retail share offer as early as this summer, “subject to market conditions and sales representing value for money”.

The government currently has a 33% stake in the bank, down from a peak of 84%, having stepped in to bail it out at the height of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. It is looking to fully exit its holding by 2025-2026. 

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The Budget document states that the “ongoing trading plan is making good progress against [its] objective, having now generated over £5.2 billion of proceeds since launch”. 

It adds that “the government has raised over £14.5 billion of proceeds from sales of the NatWest shareholding to date”.

NatWest retail share offer – should you invest?

Investors are expecting the government to offer the shares at a discount to their full price to encourage interest, which could create an attractive entry point. This move would not be dissimilar to the “Tell Sid” privatisations of the 1980s.

UK banking stocks are currently undervalued, having taken a hit in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. This trend is seen in UK equities in general, which are still lagging behind their international peers to this day

Any additional discount that the UK government offers could allow investors to bag the shares at a bargain price – but would this be a good move?

NatWest released its latest results on 16 February, revealing its highest pre-tax profits since 2007. However, falling interest rate expectations going forward could mean that the bank’s earnings aren’t as strong going forward as they were in 2023. 

Of course, this wouldn’t affect NatWest alone, but would be a sector-wide issue.

Commenting on UK banking stocks in general during their recent results season, Owen Freshwater, investment manager at Evelyn Partners, told us that “it is difficult to find a near-term catalyst” for valuations improving. 

Despite this, banks can be a good buy for income-hungry investors. In its latest results announcement, NatWest showed a strong commitment to returning capital to shareholders in the form of a healthy 11.5p dividend per share. 

It also announced plans to launch a £300 million share buyback scheme in 2024.

Katie Williams
Staff Writer

Katie has a background in investment writing and is interested in everything to do with personal finance and financial news. 

Before joining MoneyWeek, she worked as a content writer at Invesco, a global asset management firm, which she joined as a graduate in 2019. While there, she enjoyed translating complex topics into “easy to understand” stories. 

She studied English at the University of Cambridge and loves reading, writing and going to the theatre.