Interactive Investor

Autumn Statement 2023: NatWest retail share offer plus boost for UK stocks

The chancellor boasted that this year’s Autumn Statement contained 110 measures to ‘help grow the economy’, but a few of them had a more immediate impact on share prices than others.

22nd November 2023 14:49

Graeme Evans from interactive investor

A public offer of NatWest Group (LSE:NWG) shares is being lined up by the government after chancellor Jeremy Hunt today vowed it was “time to get Sid investing again”.

The planned sale to retail investors is slated to take place in the next 12 months, subject to supportive market conditions and achieving value for the taxpayer.

It forms part of the government’s commitment for a full exit of its NatWest stake by 2025-26, having originally held 84% after the 2008 rescue of Royal Bank of Scotland.

The holding is now below 40% after a programme of directed buybacks by NatWest and continuing share sales through an ongoing trading plan.

For retail investors, the potential offer comes in the midst of a barren year of recent new listings. The shares come with an enticing dividend yield of 7%, but with the City increasingly cautious about prospects after a 25% decline in valuation this year.

FTSE 100-listed NatWest was little moved by the share sale plans today, down about 2.7p, or 1%, to 204.4p in a weak session for the wider banking sector.

For BT Group (LSE:BT.A), whose stock market debut pre-dates Hunt’s reference to the Tell Sid privatisation campaign of the Thatcher government, the autumn statement offered a significant tax break in relation to business investment.

Under the expensing regime introduced in the 2023 Budget, BT Group was able to defer UK corporation tax in the 2024-26 financial year.

BT used this benefit to ensure Openreach has been able to offset inflation and stick to its full-fibre roll-out target of reaching 25 million premises by the end of 2026.

The government is now making the change permanent, a move worth over £10 billion a year in what has been described as the biggest business tax cut in recent history.

BT shares were 6.5% higher immediately following the announcement before settling 4.5p higher at 122.5p. The FTSE 100 index was otherwise little moved by today’s developments, with the FTSE 250 index holding on to its earlier improvement of 150 points.

Pub stocks attracted interest after the chancellor froze alcohol duty until August next year and extended the 75% business rates discount for retail hospitality businesses.

Marston's (LSE:MARS) shares rose 0.8p to 34.12p, meaning the pub chain has lifted by about 19% in just over a week. Wetherspoon (J D) (LSE:JDW) added 9p to 708p, but Mitchells & Butlers (LSE:MAB) was flat at 239.6p.

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