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Britain to re-launch privatisation of rescued RBS bank

© AFP/File | Britain owns a 71-percent stake in the Royal Bank Scotland

LONDON (AFP) - 

The British government on Wednesday announced plans to relaunch its sale of Royal Bank Scotland, which the taxpayer rescued at the height of the financial crisis.

The announcement, contained in Britain's annual budget, said "the government intends to recommence the privatisation of RBS" by March 2019 by selling about two-thirds of its 71-percent stake for roughly £15 billion ($19.9 billion, 16.9 billion euros).

It is hoped that some £3.0 billion of shares would be sold each year up until 2023.

The government decided in 2015 to start selling a chunk of its then stake of about 80 percent in RBS but the plan was carried out only partially owing to the lender's low share price.

"RBS has made significant progress on resolving its legacy issues and refocusing on serving British businesses and consumers," the Treasury said on Wednesday.

Royal Bank of Scotland bounced back into the black in the third quarter on lower litigation and restructuring costs.

The stricken lender had been rescued with £45.5 billion of taxpayers' cash during the global financial crisis in the world's biggest banking bailout.

Since then, RBS has racked up several billion in conduct and litigation costs.

"We welcome the recognition from the government on the progress we have made and the support for our strategy," an RBS spokesman told AFP on Wednesday.

"We continue to deliver a simpler and safer bank focussed on our customers in the UK but the timing of any share sale is a matter for the government," he added.

Another UK state-rescued lender, Lloyds Banking Group, returned fully to the private sector earlier this year.

The British government bailed out Lloyds also following the 2008 crisis at a cost of about £20 billion, handing the state a 43-percent stake in the bank.

© 2017 AFP