UK: Government confirms launch of Royal Mail sell-off

The Government has come under fresh attack over its controversial plans to privatise the Royal Mail

The Government has come under fresh attack over its controversial plans to privatise the Royal Mail after revealing details of the next stage in the process. - Credit: PA

The Government today confirmed it is pressing ahead with controversial plans to privatise the Royal Mail by selling shares.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said an initial public offering (IPO) is expected in the coming weeks, under which members of the public will be able to apply for shares as well as institutional investors.

Mr Cable said it was an “important day” for the Royal Mail and its employees. The announcement came ahead of a meeting of Communication Workers Union officials to discuss the sell-off and their plans for a strike ballot.

The Government confirmed that 10% of shares will be given to 150,000 Royal Mail workers. Members of the public will be able to buy a minimum of £750 of shares. Analysts expect the sell-off will make up to £3 billion.

Mr Cable said: “The Government is taking action to secure a healthy future for the company. These measures will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the six days a week, one price goes anywhere universal postal service.

“By announcing that we intend to move ahead with a sale of shares in Royal Mail we are completing the third and final part of the reforms agreed in Parliament two years ago.”

All shares will be sold at the same price, with full details in a prospectus to be published “in due course”. The IPO is expected in the coming weeks after ministers said they expected to complete the sale in the current financial year.

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Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene said: “Our strategy is delivering a revitalised company, with a unique, UK, multi-use network through which we are proud to deliver the universal postal service for all UK citizens.”

Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, said: “Ministers are pushing ahead with this politically motivated fire sale of Royal Mail to fill the hole left by George Osborne’s failed plan.

“This is taking place despite opposition from a huge coalition... The Government has not addressed the huge concerns which remain on the impact the Royal Mail sale will have on consumers, businesses and communities, but ministers are ploughing on regardless.”

National Federation of Sub-Postmasters general secretary George Thomson said: “I am extremely disappointed and concerned that the Government is pressing ahead with a plan that will undoubtedly jeopardise the future of thousands of post offices.

“We simply have not had the promised new Government work that needs to be delivered before the sale of Royal Mail... We are now calling on the Government to halt the sale until we can be sure that new work is forthcoming.”