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Deal on misselling paves way for RBS privatization but taxpayer still faces loss

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC inched closer to reprivatization following a long-awaited settlement over its misselling of residential mortgage-backed securities, but the U.K. government still faces selling its shares in the bank at a loss.

RBS shares were up more than 5% in early morning trading May 10, touching 294 pence, after the bank announced a $4.9 billion deal in principle with U.S. Department of Justice over securities sold in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis. This was an issue that the British government wanted resolved before it could restart the process of returning the bank to private hands. But RBS' share price is still far below the 502 pence the government paid to acquire a major shareholding in the bank at the height of the financial crisis.

The government, which first sold a batch of stock in RBS in August 2015 and last year announced plans to restart the privatization by March 2019, had already signaled that it may have to sell more shares at a loss. By contrast, it managed to earn £894 million from its gradual sale of its stake in Lloyds Banking Group PLC.

The Department of Justice deal also lifts a cloud hanging over future dividend payments from the bank. RBS reported a full-year profit in 2017 — its first in a decade — and also had a profitable first quarter in 2018, though the settlement will hurt its second-quarter earnings to the tune of $1.44 billion and potentially affect near-term dividend prospects.

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