May 3 - RBS, which is 82 per cent owned by UK taxpayers reports its first quarterly profit in 18 months. RBS Chairman Philip Hampton says he hopes the British government will be in a position to start selling shares from mid 2014, if not earlier. Edward Baran reports.
826 million pounds is today's daily digit. That's the pretax profit made by state-backed RBS in its first quarter. Quite a turnaround from the loss of 1.5 billion pounds in the same period last year, and the bank's first quarterly profit in 18 months. But RBS says the British government might still have to take a hit when it starts to sell its stake after keeping the bank afloat in the crisis. According to chairman Philip Hampton the sale could begin as early as mid-2014: SOUNDBITE: Sir Philip Hampton, RBS Chair, saying (English): "It could be earlier - that's a matter for the government but certainly we think the recovery process will be substantially complete in about a year or so's time." Britain is keen to sell out of RBS. But the pressure is on to get the best deal for taxpayers, already sitting on a paper loss of 18.5 billion pounds. And the government will want to do that before the 2015 election, according to George Hay from Reuters BreakingViews. SOUNDBITE: George Hay, Reuters BreakingViews, saying: "The timetable, and the banks will probably deny this, is clearly being led by the May 2015 election. They're wanting to get some kind of share sale away before then." Rival Lloyds, 39 per cent state owned, could prove a more attractive sale. After a big jump in first quarter profits on Tuesday, its shares rose close to a price where the government could break even if it sold out.