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It was not exactly a propitious start. On Friday, Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir Philip Hampton said he wanted the government to be able to sell down its 82 per cent stake in the bank from the middle of next year. There is no firm date, but the move represents progress and suggests that the government’s decision on when to sell might eventually be dictated by something other than the price at which it bought. It took the RBS stake to avert the consequences of its collapse, not to make a profit on trading the shares. With the main aim now achieved, there seems little point in waiting for the shares to reach the in-price of 500 pence ($0.79). That might, after all, never happen. Aside from that, it was all bad news as weak first quarter numbers pushed RBS shares down 4 per cent to 294 pence.