Former UK chancellor urges against RBS and Lloyds "firesale"

25 June 2013

The former chancellor of the UK Alistair Darling has warned against the government selling off the taxpayers' stakes in two of the nation's biggest banks too quickly.

Speaking to Investment Week, Mr Darling, who oversaw the bailout of both the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds in 2008, said he agrees with the outgoing RBS chief executive officer Stephen Hester in that the stake could take a decade to sell off.

"There are lots of bank shares about to come on the market, but I do not think the government should rush into anything like a firesale. It will have to be done gradually, even for Lloyds," Mr Darling said.

He says he has no objection to a discounted share offering as part of an overall strategy to maximise returns, but is against any of it happening before the next general election.

Current chancellor George Osborne has already unveiled plans to start selling taxpayers' 39 per cent stake in Lloyds. The bank is looking to sell off over 600 of its branches as part of its conditions of the bail-out but has yet to find a buyer after a deal with the Co-operative Bank fell through.

By Tony Aynsley

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