There has been a huge amount of press coverage of this month’s privatisation of the Royal Mail. However, it’s important to understand what has and has not been privatised, because most media outlets skip over the detail. What many people refer to as ‘Royal Mail’ is actually a collection of related companies and structures, including:1
- Royal Mail plc: Public company, listed on the London Stock Exchange. Current shareholders include the state (through Postal Services Holding Company plc), employees (who were allocated shares), institutional investors (e.g. pension funds) and individual retail investors.
- Royal Mail Group Limited: Principal trading company of the Royal Mail brand. Wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Mail plc.
- Royal Mail Investments Limited: Holding company for various investments (e.g. shares in other companies). Wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Group Limited.
- General Logistics Systems B.V.: International logistics company, based in Amsterdam, which operates under a number of brands including Parcelforce. Wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Investments Limited.
- Royal Mail Estates Limited: Holding company for property and land. Wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Group Limited.
- Postal Services Holding Company plc: Holding company which owns all the shares of Post Office Limited and the state’s remaining stake in Royal Mail plc. This will be part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and managed by the Shareholder Executive. The buck ultimately stops with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills - currently Vince Cable.
- Post Office Limited: Owner and operator of the Post Office network. Wholly owned subsidiary of Postal Services Holding Company plc.
- Royal Mail Statutory Pension Scheme: Before privatisation, historic liabilities of £48bn and £28bn of assets were transferred from Royal Mail to the state, to leave Royal Mail plc with no pension deficit.
For people less interested in corporate structures, you can basically read the above as saying:
- The Royal Mail delivery network (letters, small parcels etc., collected and delivered six days a week) and Parcelforce have been privatised, though the state retains a minority stake.
- The Post Office network remains under state control.
In day to day terms, your mail will still be delivered by the same organisation, and post offices will continue to operate as normal.