Jeremy Hunt will be taking a keener interest than normal when Natwest kicks off the bank reporting season next week.
The Chancellor hopes to launch a ‘Tell Sid’-style campaign as soon as June to sell shares in the lender to the public, an effort to whip up some support for popular capitalism ahead of the election.
A repeat of the fervour that surrounded Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation programme of the 1980s – including British Gas and British Telecom – looks highly unlikely, however.
Natwest – or Royal Bank of Scotland as it was previously known – has lurched from crisis to crisis since taxpayers bailed it out to the tune of £45billion during the financial crisis of 2007-09.
That saddled the Government with an 84 per cent stake in the bank, which has since been whittled down to around 35 per cent.
But the shares continue to languish, and missteps such as the Nigel Farage debanking scandal have done little to help. So generating any enthusiasm among a weary public to take part in a share sale may prove tricky.
A decent set of figures on Friday would help – as would the appointment of a permanent successor to Alison Rose, who lost her job as chief executive after the Farage debacle.
Analysts expect annual profits to have risen to £6billion in 2023 from £5.1billion in 2022, though they are then seen falling to £4.8billion this year.
The dividend is forecast to rise to 16.8p a share. Anything better than this would indeed by useful for Hunt.