David Cameron Says RBS Must 'Accelerate' Turnaround

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By Martin Baccardax | February 19, 2013 6:54 PM EST

The Royal Bank of Scotland should speed up its restructuring programme, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday, just days ahead of the state-owned lender's full year results.

Speaking to reporters during the Prime Minister's three-day visit to India, Cameron said that RBS should "accelerate the adjustments" the bank is undertaking to get it back into the black. He also said he hadn't ruled out the idea of issuing shares in RBS, in which the government holds an 82 percent stake, to the wider public.

"These are all interesting questions for the future," he said. "The first job is to turn around the performance of RBS and to strengthen its balance sheet, strengthen its business and that's what Stephen Hester and his team are doing. But I am keen to examine all possibilities for what we can do to put RBS in time back into the private sector."

The view appears to contradict statements made last week by Cameron's Chancellor, George Osborne, who told Sky News that any talk of an RBS give-away was "premature".

"It is just a premature discussion about what to do with the shares when we get to the point where they are worth what the country paid for them," he told the broadcaster during the G20 finance ministers meeting in Moscow. "Gordon Brown bought them at a price that they are not worth today and we have got to get the Royal Bank of Scotland to a point where it is worth what the taxpayer paid. Then we can have a no doubt big national discussion about what to do with the shares and how to return it to the private sector."

Cameron's coalition government partners have pressed for a share giveaway ahead of parliamentary elections in 2015. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat who serves as business secretary, called the eventual privatisation of RBS "a distant dream" earlier this month after the bank was fined a record $612m for its role in the global libor-rigging scandal.

Full-year results for the bank are expected to be published next week after it posted a net loss of around £1.38bn for its fiscal third quarter.

RBS was rescued with around £45.4bn in public funds in 2008, the largest bank bailout in history.

Shares in the group closed at 339.3 pence each in London Monday after a 1.42 percent decline on the session. The shares have risen around 19.1 percent over the past year.

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