Royal Bank of Scotland's US arm, Citizens, could be valued at more than $14bn (£8.5bn), the bailed-out bank has indicated, as it pushed the button on the sale of the business.
As shares in the Edinburgh-based bank slumped after an opinion poll showing Scots will vote for independence, RBS began the process of selling its US operation, which was amassed through a series of acquisitions before the financial crisis.
RBS – which is selling a 25% stake initially – told the stock market it expected to price each of the 140,000 shares at between $23 and $25. The exact price of the initial 25% stake will be known in about two weeks when the shares begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The decision to sell Citizens was taken by Stephen Hester while he was chief executive of RBS, as part of his strategy to focus on the UK retail and corporate bank. The sale is being executed by his successor, Ross McEwan, who took the top job a year ago.
McEwan said the sale – which is being overseen by the former RBS finance director Bruce Van Saun – is a milestone for the bank, which is still 81% owned by the taxpayer after the £45bn bailout six years ago.
"The planned divestment will significantly improve RBS's capital foundation and is a further important step in making RBS a strong and secure bank that continues to fully support the needs of its customers," McEwan said.
The taxpayer will break even on its stake in RBS when its shares trade just above 500p. On Monday the shares were down 3% at 336p, despite the announcement of the Citizens sale, in a market beset by uncertainty over independence for Scotland.
RBS is based in Edinburgh and has warned of the "material adverse impact" it could face from the referendum while the business secretary, Vince Cable, said six months ago that it was inevitable RBS would relocate to London if there was a yes vote.
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