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Government to take control of two leading British banks

Latest update : 2008-10-12

The Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS may soon become national institutions, British media report. In a groundbreaking move, the government is expected to announce on Wednesday it will acquire a controlling stake in the embattled banks.

The British government is preparing to take controlling stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS, two of the banks worst affected by the financial crisis, reports said Sunday.

The unprecedented move would make the government the biggest shareholder in the banks and government representatives would be installed on their boards, the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph newspapers reported.

The scale of the rescue plan could go beyond the 50-billion-pound (64-billion-euro, 87-billion-dollar) bailout for the British banking sector announced by the government on Wednesday, with the government now prepared to make 75 billion pounds available, the Sunday Times said.

The Sunday Times said RBS, which has seen its shares plummet by about 80 percent since the credit crunch began, would ask the government for 15 billion pounds in return for a controlling stake.

HBOS, which is Britain's biggest home loan provider, will ask for 10 billion pounds, the newspaper said, in its unsourced report.

The scale of the operation could lead to trading in the banks on the London stock market being suspended, the reports said.

The move would leave the government owning 70 percent of HBOS and 50 percent of RBS, the Sunday Times said.

RBS and HBOS declined to comment on the reports, but an industry source told AFP that the banks could make an announcement on Monday.

The British government has already nationalised two smaller banks, Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley.

Date created : 2008-10-12