Britain's Treasury chief has authorized the sale of its stake in taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland — the first step in recovering money from Britain's costliest-ever bank rescue.

The Treasury department said in a statement Monday that UK Financial Investments, which manages the government's stakes in banks bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis, had advised that "it would be appropriate" to conduct the first sale.

Treasury Chief George Osborne had earlier this year outlined plans to sell part of its 80 percent stake.

Even though RBS's shares are trading for less than the government paid for them during the global financial crisis, some analysts believe selling a small stake now will make it easier and more profitable to sell the rest of the government holding in the future.