UK Government Investments (UKGI), which manages the government’s shareholding in NatWest, says it is aiming to sell shares over 12 months starting August 12 under a pre-arranged trading plan overseen by Morgan Stanley.

It plans to sell up to, but no more, than 15% of the total shares being traded on the market, which would further reduce the current 54.7% taxpayer holding in the bank.

UKGI and the Treasury say the government will also keep “other disposal options open” alongside the 12-month trading plan.

It comes soon after the government sold 580 million NatWest shares in May, raising £1.1bn for the taxpayer.

NatWest – formerly Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – has been majority-owned by the taxpayer since it was bailed out for £45.8bn in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

Taxpayer expected to make a loss of £38.8bn

The latest share sale announcement takes the government a step closer to ending its status as majority owner of the bank and its commitment to return NatWest to the private sector by 2025.

The government initially bought an 82% stake in the then RBS for 440p a share in 2008 to save the bank from complete collapse during the financial crisis.

According to recent estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility, of the £45.8 billion spent to prop up the bank during the crisis, the taxpayer is expected to make a loss of £38.8bn.

March 2025 deadline pushed back

Last year, just as the coronavirus crisis struck the UK, the Treasury pushed back a deadline to sell the entire stake by a year, to March 2025, as a global sell-off saw stock markets around the globe collapse.

The Treasury also missed out on a dividend payment last year, due to regulators banning payouts by financial institutions during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

NatWest subsequently declared a dividend in 2021 of 3p a share, handing £225 million to the Government as the biggest shareholder.