Clydesdale and Yorkshire doubts for NAB

NATIONAL Australia Bank's withdrawal from the £2 billion auction to buy more than 300 branches from RBS has heightened speculation about its commitment to Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks.

Cameron Clyne, NAB's chief executive, said at the end of last year that his policy towards the UK banking market was "expand or get out".

Analysts are now questioning whether he will want to offload the two UK banks to focus attention on the Australian and Asian markets.

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One said: "Clearly this was a big chance to acquire assets that rarely come up for sale. You have to ask whether it will prompt the NAB board to exit the UK."

NAB has declined to comment on the decision to pull out of the RBS auction which has left Spain's Santander as clear frontrunner to acquire the 312 branches in England and six NatWest outlets in Scotland. European competition commissioners are forcing RBS to sell the branches as a condition of receiving bail-out money from taxpayers.

There had been talk of a partial flotation of Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks, most likely in the event of a successful bid for the RBS branches.