Some privatisations for Gerry Grimstone to consider

by Eamonn Butler (August 28 2008)

You know the economy must be bad when even Gordon Brown decides to sell off some of the family silver to plug the hole in the Government's finances. As the Sunday Telegraph reported, he has hired Standard Life chairman Gerry Grimstone to help him sell a large number of his precious state assets.

It's a daunting job, but Grimstone, someone who has overseen perhaps 20 privatisation deals, is just the man to do it. In Mrs Thatcher's Treasury he was put in charge of privatisation policy, and in the private sector he carried on structuring more state sell-offs.

Fortunately, a lot of the work has already been done for him. Last April, in the Adam Smith Institute's Privatization: Reviving the Momentum, city analyst Nigel Hawkins identified a whole list of privatisation targets that should bring in a cool £20bn or so.

Grimstone might like to start with the Royal Mail, worth about £4bn in itself. Other countries' post offices are booming since being privatised, so we don't we liberate ours from the state too?

Then there's BBC Worldwide, a back catalogue of programming which would bring in another £2bn at least. He could throw in Channel 4 for another £1bn or so.

Among the utilities there is Scottish Water, £5bn, Glas Cymru £4bn, and Northern Ireland Water £1bn, British Energy and the atom company Urenco would net a useful £10bn. Then there's air traffic control, the trust ports, the Commonwealth Development Corporation, and the state betting shop, the Tote.

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