Spain's biggest bank in bid to snap up part of RBS
BANCO Santander, the biggest Spanish bank, and National Australia Bank are among at least four companies that have expressed interest in buying part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group UK branch network.
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Spain's second-largest lender, and Richard Branson's Virgin Money are also among the bidders for the 318 branches, sources said. The deadline for bids was 5pm on Monday.
The sale is being keenly watched by followers of Allied Irish Banks, which hoisted a 'for sale' sign last week over its UK operations, including a business bank and its First Trust unit in Northern Ireland.
Edinburgh-based RBS is selling the outlets to comply with European Union regulations after it received a government bailout in 2008 and 2009.
The bank will sell branches in England, Wales and Scotland under the Williams & Glyn brand, which RBS created in 1970 and then subsumed in 1985. RBS has about 2,250 branches in the UK. "This is an unusual asset to come up for sale and is therefore attractive," said Bruce Packard, an analyst at Seymour Pierce. "It allows banks to acquire a network of branches rather than having to build one organically."
JC Flowers & Co, the New York-based private-equity firm, also submitted a bid for the branches, according to reports.
Santander has about 1,000 branches in the UK after buying Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and parts of Bradford & Bingley. The Spanish bank also has been mooted as a potential buyer for AIB's UK operations. Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross will commit up to £500m (€568m) to support Virgin Money's bid for the branches. The RBS branch network and related assets, if separated from the parent, would be the UK's sixth-biggest bank. (Bloomberg)