RBS to sell shares by 2014

The Royal Bank of Scotland has announced that it will begin a process of selling shares five years after the bank rescue package. Under government guidance it is expected to return to the private sector next year, RBS chairman, Sir Philip Hampton has announced.

Certainty surrounding the exact date is still unknown, but Sir Hampton posted a video statement on the RBS website announcing that he expects the bank to have sufficient enough funds to begin a process of sales by 2014.

For the UK the taxpayer the announcement marks a turning point, as the government can begin a process of reclaiming the tens of billions used to support the bank back in 2008. Although the exact details over the nature of any future sales will be decided by the government.

In the first quarter of 2012, RBS experienced losses of £1.5 billion, and in the years final quarter they recorded losses £2.2 billion.

The announcement however comes in the light of a return to profit for the first quarter of 2013, making a pre tax total of £826 million after previous losses have been accounted for.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) experienced a small increase in lending with RBS providing a total of £13.2 billion in loans, with £7.8 billion being granted to SMEs.

After the announcement of the news however, RBS shares fell more than 4.5% in the opening minutes of the London Stock Exchange.

RBS is confident that by the middle of 2014 it will have jettisoned its unwanted assets, completing a process of regeneration.

The RBS chairman said:

"Our balance sheet is substantially fixed... our operating profitability has come through quite strongly,"

He described the results as "our best quarterly performance for some time now", opening the door for a return to the private sector.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, RBS chief executive Stephen Hester said "We can deliver an RBS that can do its job, and is cleaned up, in the not-too-distant future," but added that the sale of the bank would be a decision for the government.