British Royal Mint Up for Sale
By Richard Giedroyc
British government, motivated by the need to
raise cash to fund a bailout of banks in
financial trouble, is looking to sell off just
about everything short of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The only reason the Brooklyn Bridge is not on a
short list is that the bridge is in the United
States, where charlatans have been selling it
off for years. It wasn't immediately clear if
perhaps the London Bridge might be under
Among assets the British government is looking
in earnest to sell are its stake in British
Energy, the Royal Mail, Channel 4, the Met
Office, British Waterways canal property and the
British Royal Mint.
Buying the BRM sounds like a good deal. You get
lots of real estate (35 acres) in Llantrisant,
Wales, a modern manufacturing facility, and a
business that dates back about a thousand years.
Nobody knows for certain, but it is estimated
the business, plant, and equipment could be
worth �100 million or about $150 million US.
It's got a great track record. During 2008 the
BRM produced about 1.3 billion coins while
making an operating profit of �10 million. This
includes production contracts for coins and
medals for 60 foreign countries representing a
15 percent share of the world coin manufacturing
market. The mint has 700 employees. It is
protected by the Ministry of Defence Police.
Andrew Stafford is the current chief executive
at the BRM. Appointed to the post in 2007,
Stafford's reaction to the possible
privatization of the mint was to say, "We would
welcome any change in our status that would
enable us to make the business more successful."
Unfortunately the employee union has a different
opinion. A PCS public services union spokesman
was recently quoted as saying the proposed sale
is like "selling off the 800-year old family
While the reaction of mint employees and their
union was not an immediate concern for the
British government, should the mint be sold it
is an issue that will not go away.
Privatization of the BRM has been considered
since 1999, however at that time it was, in the
words of the web site www.WalesOnLine.com, "then
considered to be too archaic an organization to
be turned over to private ownership."
According to the March 15 The Sunday Times
newspaper, the British government's goal is to
raise a total of �35 billion to fill what it
calls "the dwindling public purse" by selling
off just about anything that isn't nailed down.
Chancellor Alistair Darling has appointed the
Rothschild banking and investment firm to
prepare the sale of the BRM. We can only hope
the crown jewels won't go next!
The March 15 London newspaper the Financial
Times reported, "The Royal Mint is now the main
target for a sell-off, according to a person
close to the negotiations."
The Financial Times article continues, "While
only one of the three operations UK, overseas
and commemorative coin production could be
targeted for privatization, it is more likely
that the entire mint will be moved out of the
public sector. An announcement in principle is
expected to accompany the budget next month,
although the transition to private ownership
will be lengthy because of the necessary changes
in legislation, said another person involved in
The BRM was added to a short list of things to
sell in November 2008. The list consisted of
nine government assets that were politely termed
to be "alternatives to public ownership." Since
De La Rue Ltd., a private organization that is
listed within the FTSE 250 (Financial Times
Stock Index) stock exchange, prints all British
bank notes, the sale of the BRM would then mean
all British currency production would be in
The March 16 issue of Time magazine said, "In
almost every sense it is a tragedy that the
British government would have to part with such
historically important assets." Maybe so, but if
De La Rue isn't interested in buying the BRM
then who is?
Just think, and Thomas Jefferson had to consider
if US coinage should be contracted out to