James Moore: The dangers in an RBS sell-off to Abu Dhabi
Outlook The "revelation" that talks are under way between the UK and Abu Dhabi over the possibility of the Gulf state buying part of Royal Bank of Scotland look to be driven as much by internal BBC politics as they are by an imminent deal. Look, look we can do business stories too, Newsnight was saying, by picking up a rumour of the State's interest and then declaring advanced negotiations to be under way with an announcement due by, erm, Christmas. Maybe.
So in fact these talks are about as advanced as a steam-driven car with square wheels.
The story has been given some extra legs by the fact that it appears that the government of Abu Dhabi is involved directly rather than its various sovereign funds and that Amanda Staveley, the banker who helped get Barclays out of a hole with the help of lots of Middle Eastern cash, is advising.
But in the real world it would be news if UK Financial Investments, which stewards the state's interest in the banking sector, wasn't talking to potential buyers everywhere and anywhere.
UKFI's role, to keep the Government at arm's length from a banking sector it has billions of pounds of taxpayers' money invested in and to eventually oversee its sale, is essentially a fiction. Ministers have already proved that they can and will intervene in the running of the nationalised banks where there is political capital at stake.
However, UKFI still has a staff and they do have to find something to occupy themselves with, so sizing up buyers isn't a bad idea.
There is even some support in the City for an early sale and some semi-sensible arguments for one too. Even if it would be loss making for the taxpayer such a move would at least broaden the the range of RBS's investors and make it look more like a "normal" company which, with over 82 per cent of its shares in government hands, it can't be considered right now.
However, quite apart from the anger such a move would generate with the public – "they're letting their mates in the City take us for a ride again" – it would also be dangerous, if not foolhardy.
If you show the market you are willing to sell your assets cheap once then the market will expect you to do it again. And again. So ultimately you will never realise their true value.
Ms Staveley is well aware of that fact. Vince Cable and George Osborne ought to be.
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
- 3 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 GamerGate: developer Tim Schafer provokes rage with joke about online gaming activists at industry awards
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
Isis 'bulldozes' Nimrud: UNESCO condemns destruction of ancient Assyrian site as a 'war crime'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
iJobs Money & Business
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Jemma Gent: In this role you will report to the Head of...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...