The owner of Clydesdale Bank is in talks to buy hundreds of branches that Royal Bank of Scotland is being forced to sell off.
Glasgow-based CYBG, which also owns the Yorkshire Bank brand, said it has made a “preliminary non-binding proposal” to acquire the 300-branch Williams & Glyn operation from RBS.
A transaction will only be pursued if it is determined by the board to be in the best interests of CYBG shareholdersCYBG
The move comes after Spanish rival Santander last month pulled out of talks for the second time to buy the business, which RBS has to dispose of by the end of next year as a condition of the £45 billion taxpayer bailout it received at the height of the financial crisis.
CYBG floated on the London market in February after being spun out of the National Australia Bank group, and the firm – led by chief executive David Duffy – said it has a “duty to continually evaluate all potential opportunities to enhance its business”, although it stressed that it would “only evaluate combinations that are in line with the company’s strategic objectives”.
It added: “The Board of CYBG can confirm that the company has engaged in discussions with RBS and has made a preliminary non-binding proposal to RBS in relation to its Williams & Glyn operations.
“This engagement is ongoing and there can be no certainty that any transaction will occur, nor as to the terms on which any transaction might be concluded. A transaction will only be pursued if it is determined by the board to be in the best interests of CYBG shareholders.”
State-backed RBS, headed by chief executive Ross McEwan, has to offload the Williams & Glyn to comply with European Union rules on state aid. The Edinburgh-based group, which is still 73 per cent owned by the taxpayer, had been planning to float off the business, but has now focused its efforts on sealing a trade sale.
Analysts have suggested that RBS will fetch less than the £1.9bn it wants for the business after previous failed attempts to sell the branches.
Santander abandoned a £1.65bn deal for the branches in 2012, before returning to the negotiating table earlier this year. However, talks with the Spanish lender broke down because of a disagreement over the price.
Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Williams & Glyn is a major millstone around the neck of RBS, and selling it on would allow the troubled bank to focus on its other problems, which are plentiful.
“However, the issue is always going to be the price tag set for the Williams & Glyn franchise. Brexit hasn’t exactly improved banking conditions in the UK, and everyone and their dog knows that RBS is a forced seller, which hardly makes for a compelling negotiating position.”
He added: “The end result is RBS may have to accept less than it wants for Williams & Glyn, however compared to the scale of misconduct costs RBS is facing in the US, any haircut it takes on Williams and Glyn will probably look like loose change.”