UK relinquishes control of former Royal Bank of Scotland

LONDON (AP) — The British government has relinquished control of the former Royal Bank of Scotland for the first time since it bailed out the lender during the global financial crisis almost 15 years ago.

The Treasury said Monday that it had sold 1.2 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) of shares back to the bank, now known as NatWest Group, cutting the government’s stake to 48.1%, from 50.6%.

Royal Bank of Scotland came to the brink of collapse in 2008 after a global acquisition spree that briefly made it the world’s biggest bank but also left it heavily exposed to risky loans in the U.S.

The government owned as much as 84.4% of the bank after investing 45.5 billion pounds in 2008 and 2009. The stake has been gradually reduced through a series of share sales that began in 2015.

“This sale means that the government is no longer the majority owner of NatWest Group and is therefore an important landmark in our plan to return the bank to the private sector,” John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, said in a statement.

NatWest bought 550 million shares, a 2.5% stake, for 220.5 pence a share, the Treasury said. The price is equal to Friday’s closing price for NatWest shares on the London Stock Exchange.

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