Govt Takes Interest On Investors' Mail Funds
The Government has earned hundreds of thousands of pounds in interest from private investors who saw their applications to buy Royal Mail shares snubbed by ministers.
Sky News understands that hundreds of thousands of members of the public who applied for more than £750 in the postal operator's shares, and who transferred their money ahead of a deadline earlier this week, will not see the interest on those funds returned to them.
More than £3.8bn of orders for Royal Mail stock were received from so-called retail investors, with that part of the privatisation seven times oversubscribed.
Some of those orders were placed through intermediaries and did not require money to be transferred in advance, but many thousands of people are understood to have paid via debit cards on a dedicated website.
The Government is due to return the excess funds to would-be investors by October 21, meaning that it could have held the money in an interest-earning account for as long as three weeks.
One analyst calculated that the Government was likely to have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds in interest from these investors' funds.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) declined to comment on what proportion of the £3.8bn in orders from private investors had been paid up-front.
Its retention of the interest from unused funds is likely to stoke anger from investors who failed to receive their desired allocation. Individuals who applied for more than £10,000-worth of shares were excluded from the sale altogether.
A BIS spokesman said:
"Details of how refunds to retail investors would be made and by when and when they will be issued were clearly set out in the terms and conditions contained in the prospectus - the document all investors should have based their investment decision on."
"Funds from retail investors have been held in a low interest bank account on Government's behalf. Any interest gained on this money will be returned to Government."
Courtenay Humphries, a private investor who applied for £10,000 of shares and received an allocation of £750, said: "In this day of Internet banking I would have thought it unnecessary to take more than the required amount from my debit card in the first place.
"As for low interest accounts I would be happier if they stated the actual interest they are getting for it and what they intend to do with their ill-gotten gain."
More than £30bn in orders were also received from institutional investors, hundreds of whom missed out altogether because of the level of demand.
Others saw their allocations scaled back, although the Government did sell millions of pounds-worth of shares to sovereign wealth funds in Kuwait and Singapore.
The institutions did not pay in advance, in accordance with conventional practice on share offerings.