My cousin found 200 British Gas shares from the IPO in 1986 that she inherited – can she still claim them or are the certificates worthless?
My cousin recently found 200 shares in British Gas. The shares were bought on British Gas’s first IPO by my late uncle, who were then passed on to my cousin when he died in 1992.
She has moved twice and has not updated her details. How can she claim the shares and what are they worth?
‘Tell Sid’: British Gas’s 1986 advertising campaign urged people to buy shares in recently privatized company
Angharad Carrick, of This Is Money, says: In 1986 Margaret Thatcher’s government began an effort to get the public to buy shares in British Gas after its privatisation.
A promotional campaign featuring characters urging each other to tell ‘Sid’ about the opportunity to buy stocks at ‘affordable’ prices sparked a new wave of new shareholders.
Millions of Britons withdrew from their savings to buy shares with a price of 135 pence per share and a minimum purchase of 100 shares.
Since then, however, several splits have resulted in new companies on the exchange rather than British Gas.
Then in 2016 Royal Dutch Shell BG Group and shareholders received a cash payment and shares in Shell.
It means that the original shares in British Gas have become shares in Royal Dutch Shell, National Grid and Centrica.
These splits make it very difficult for you to figure out how the shares you own compare to current holdings in these companies.
You can contact the Unclaimed Asset Register who, for a one-off payment of £25, will search unclaimed stock dividends, unit trusts, pensions and life insurance. Please note that the service will be retired from August 29, 2022.
But the first stop when you want to reclaim shares is to contact the company’s registrar – the three biggest are Equiniti, Capita and Computershare.
With British Gas, however, things are a bit more complicated due to the various splits since the first float in 1986.
At British Gas, the spin-off companies all have Equiniti as registrar, which makes it a bit easier.
Since your niece only recently found the stock, it is highly unlikely that she notified the stock registrar of her change of address.
Sometimes the shares become unconditional upon the acquisition of a company. This means that the company retains most of the shares and shareholders must sell.
If they do not, the name of the shareholder will be entered in a register and will remain there for 12 years.
So there is a chance that unclaimed dividend payments from these shares will be lost, but it is worth contacting Equiniti to see how the 200 British Gas shares are distributed.