May 29, 2013 / 1:08 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-UK government appoints banks for Royal Mail listing

LONDON, May 29 (Reuters) - The British government has appointed Goldman Sachs and UBS as the lead banks to run a London stock market listing of Royal Mail.

The initial public offering (IPO) is expected to take place later this year and could value the state-owned business at 2-3 billion pounds ($3-4.5 billion), making it Britain’s biggest privatisation for 20 years.

Goldman and UBS will act as joint global co-ordinators and joint bookrunners, Business Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement on Wednesday, while Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch will also be joint bookrunners.

Fallon, who previously said several overseas buyers had expressed “significant interest” in buying the 497-year-old postal service, reiterated that while a stock market listing was the preferred route, all sale options remained open.

“It is important that we are in a position to move ahead swiftly with our chosen route once we take the final decision,” he said.

“Given the lead time and preparatory work involved in readying an IPO, the appointed banking syndicate will work to make sure we are ready to proceed when the time comes.”

Momentum behind privatisation began gathering pace last year after the European Commission cleared the government to take on Royal Mail’s hefty pension liabilities and regulators gave the green light for the business to increase prices.

Despite fierce union opposition, Britain is pushing ahead with plans to privatise the company this financial year to give it access to external capital for future investment.

All four banks had already been advising either the company or the government on options for a planned sale.

The government said the appointment of banks to more junior syndicate positions would be announced in the coming months.

Last week Royal Mail Chief Executive Moya Greene, reporting the company had more than doubled annual profit on the back of an online shopping boom, said she had been meeting potential investors in Britain, the United States and Canada.

Banks have also been asked to gauge appetite for a 1.5 billion pound syndicated loan to back the planned privatisation, sources said last week.

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