UK & World News
Royal Mail: More Than 100,000 Seek Shares
Well over 100,000 members of the public applied to buy shares in Royal Mail ahead of last night's deadline, confirming the status of the £3.3bn sell-off as the biggest privatisation for decades.
Sky News understands that tens of thousands of people applied within the 48 hours prior to the cut-off point alone, encouraged by City speculation that the postal operator's shares could soar in the aftermath of its historic flotation.
One source said the final number of retail applicants could be as high as 200,000, although orders were still being counted on Wednesday morning ahead of ministers' decisions about the allocation of shares
The final number of retail applicants is expected to be confirmed on Friday but one source said the figure would be "well into six figures".
Even 150,000 retail applicants would mean that the distribution of Royal Mail shares was far narrower than some of the mega-privatisations of the 1980s, such as British Gas and BT, which saw stock sold to 1.5m and 750,000 small shareholders respectively.
Michael Fallon, the Business Minister overseeing the privatisation, has pledged that retail investors will receive their "fair share" of Royal Mail shares..
The political row over Royal Mail's privatisation has escalated in recent days, with Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, accusing his Labour shadow, Chuka Umunna, of "irresponsibility" for claiming that the shares will be significantly undervalued when they start trading next week.
Around 150,000 Royal Mail staff will receive about £2,200 of free shares as part of the flotation, although they will have to hold onto them for up to five years to avoid triggering a tax liability on the sale.
BIS declined to comment on the number of applications it had received for shares from members of the public.