Shareholders back RBS cash call

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The Independent Online

Royal Bank of Scotland said today that it had secured overwhelming backing for its £12 billion cash call on shareholders - the biggest rights issue in UK corporate history.

The banking giant confirmed that shareholders representing more than 95 per cent of its stock had taken up the offer to buy discounted shares by Friday's deadline.

The money raised by selling the shares will allow RBS to shore up its finances and cover hefty losses seen as a result of the credit crunch.

RBS announced that it was turning to shareholders for the cash injection in April as it sought to boost a balance sheet also weakened by last year's near-£50 billion acquisition of Dutch bank ABN Amro.

The move caused controversy as it came less than two months after RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin declared the bank's financial position satisfactory.

RBS also unveiled the rights issue plans as it revealed a further £5.9 billion of investment write-downs from risky US property-related assets, bringing its total hit from the credit crunch to £8.04 billion.

There had been fears over investor take-up for the rights issue after buy-to-let mortgage specialist Bradford & Bingley restructured its planned rights issue two weeks ago, scaling back the amount it was asking shareholders for in a sign that take-up had been low.

Concerns were also mounting that RBS's share price would suffer if the banks which had underwritten the deal were left with large amounts of unsold stock.

RBS confirmed today that the underwriters had 299.4 million shares left to sell.

RBS shares have already been under pressure on the stock market in recent weeks, as have those for rival Halifax Bank of Scotland, which is also asking shareholders for cash in a £4 billion rights issue.

RBS, which is Britain's second biggest banking group and employs more than 100,000 in the UK, is to issue 11 new shares for every 18 existing shares at a price of 200p per share under the rights issue.

The offer price represents a discount of nearly 50 per cent on RBS's closing share price before the plans were announced, although shares have since dropped to around 245p.

Trading in the new shares issued under the scheme are scheduled to begin today on the London Stock Exchange and the Euronext Amsterdam.

Certificates for the new shares will be sent out to shareholders on June 16, as will any payment due for rights which have not been taken up.

Investors who decided not to take part and let their rights lapse will gain a cheque from RBS for their value, although they will see their stake in RBS diluted.

The group has warned that shareholders were likely to see a "reduction in dividend per share" this year as part of the refinancing.

Retail investors hold around 9 per cent of RBS's shares, with by far the bulk held by institutional shareholders.

The majority - 56 per cent - are held by UK investors, but it has been expanding its investor base globally and now has 27 per cent held in the US and 14% across Europe.

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