SIR Richard Branson’s Virgin Money, a consortium of City investors and some private equity bidders are understood to have put in bids yesterday for the 316 branches Royal Bank of Scotland has to divest by the end of the year.
The blue-chip City consortium is led by Andrew Higginson – former finance director at Tesco and current chairman at budget retailer Poundland.
Its proposal is believed to be to bankroll and float a new company on the stock market that would have a binding commitment to acquire the RBS branches. The divestment was ordered by the European Commission in return for the bank’s £45 billion taxpayer bailout.
A handful of bidders are also understood to include a joint proposal by private equity players JC Flowers and Apollo.
Despite the flurry of interest in the branches, which would carry the old Williams & Glyn’s brand, RBS said at its recent annual results that a flotation of the assets was now its “baseline” plan. That followed the breakdown last year of lengthy talks between RBS and Santander UK about the Spanish-owned bank doing a deal for £1.65 billion. It is said that IT issues were partly behind Santander eventually walking away.
The official deadline for offers is by end of play today, but sources said it was highly unlikely for interested parties to wait until the 11th hour to submit proposals. Analysts say it is likely RBS will gain an extension from Brussels to the deadline to float or sell the branches given the breakdown of the Santander deal.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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