Wellcome Trust in joint bid to buy 318 RBS branches
Private equity firm Blackstone and charity the Wellcome Trust have launched a joint bid for 318 bank branches that are being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland.
The auction is being closely monitored by followers of Allied Irish Banks, which hoisted a "for sale" sign over its UK division, which comprises its business banking operation on the other side of the Irish Sea and Northern Irish retail unit First Trust.
The bid from Blackstone and the Wellcome Trust, a British charitable foundation which manages a £13bn (€14.8bn) investment portfolio, brings the total number of offers for the RBS branches to five.
RBS, which is 84pc UK government-owned after receiving a taxpayer-funded capital injection at the height of the banking crisis, is selling the 318 branches so that the bailout complies with European Union state-aid rules.
The branches are being sold under the revived Williams & Glyn brand, which RBS created in 1970 and then subsumed in 1985, and are expected to fetch more than £1bn.
RBS has about 2,250 branches across the UK.
The other bidders for the RBS branches are Spanish lenders Banco Santander and BBVA, National Australia Bank and Virgin Money, part of Richard Branson's Virgin Group.
RBS is planning to narrow down the bidders for the branches later this month and expects to complete a sale in the second half.
RBS rose 1.6pc to 44.7p in London yesterday.
The bank is trading about 11pc below the average that was paid by the State for a stake when it became involved in the rescue of the company.
The group is also selling other assets including Global Merchant Services, a card-payment processing business.
TPG, a private-equity fund, is among at least 10 firms that submitted offers. (Reuters and Bloomberg)