LONDON -- According to the Financial Times, the U.K. government is having a powwow to consider buying out the remaining shares in Royal Bank of Scotland
RBS is currently 82% owned by taxpayers, and the FT estimates that the acquisition of the remaining 18% would cost in the region of 5 billion pounds, in addition to the 45 billion pounds already invested in saving the bank.
The other bailed-out bank, Lloyds Banking Group
The problem is that the government's urging of banks to increase their lending to businesses, coupled with a lengthy program of quantitative easing and the release of cheap cash to banks specifically for that purpose, has not achieved its targets, and smaller firms are still struggling to get the cash they need.
Forcing RBS to crank up its lending is seen by some as the only realistic alternative at the moment.
Chancellor George Osborne is reported to be opposed to a full buyout, as that would land taxpayers with 100% of the bank's debt liability, quite a bit of which is toxic -- but we're 82% in that soup already, so it's not likely to make a great deal of difference.
If the mooted plan does go ahead, there will surely be scrutiny from banking regulators -- a government-owned bank offering cheap loans could potentially raise some competition headaches.
We shall have to wait and see if the FT is right on this one.
Finally, the banking sector is still a risky one to invest in, so if you want something safer, Neil Woodford is an acknowledged expert on investing in solid dividend-paying companies -- the free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" takes a look at some of his major holdings. Click here to get your free copy, while it's still available.
Investing is by no means easy in today's uncertain economy. That's why we've published " Top Sectors for 2012 " -- our guide to three favorable industries. This free report will be dispatched immediately to your inbox.
Further Motley Fool investment opportunities: