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Business Comment

Simon English: Politics will decide Royal Mail float price

Outlook Royal Mail plumped itself up for joining the stock market yesterday with some flashy looking operating profits.

If your main interest in this outfit is that it delivers your letters roughly on time, rather than how much money it makes, you are about to be left behind.

The float could come next year or perhaps even by autumn. We will all be offered the chance to buy a stake in a business we thought we already owned. Now, because the privatisation of the Mail is political rather than a matter of business necessity, interesting scenarios arise on the subject of price.

Normally, the high charging investment bankers involved in such a deal would march across the City desperately talking up the prospects of the company.

On this occasion, it would be electorally bad for the Tories if Royal Mail shares are sold at what turns out to be the top of the market, and crash in the run-up to election day.

So the bankers may be instructed to play down the price. To ask for less money.

It will be interesting to see if the Government can find bankers able to do this. They would be acting against instinct and muscle memory.