RBS on course for shortlist for branch sell-off

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ROYAL Bank of Scotland has sent sales documents to a second batch of prospective buyers of 316 branches as it attempts to finalise a shortlist next month.

Information was despatched this week to trade buyers Nationwide and Virgin Money, private equity player JC Flowers and another suitor, though to be the venture capital firm led by former UK trade minister Lord Davies of Abersoch.

RBS was ordered to sell the branches by European regulators as a condition of receiving a £45 billion bailout in 2008 which left it 82 per cent taxpayer owned.

It was forced to restart the sale process after Spain’s Santander pulled out of a deal last month.

RBS has caught the eye of Corsair Capital, a venture capital fund aiming at the financial services sector where Davies is vice-chairman.

Two further venture capital firms, Blackstone and Anacap, the backers of new bank Aldermore, have also signalled an interest.

RBS intends to have a firm shortlist of possible buyers in place by the middle of December as it “accelerates” the sales process ahead of a 2014 EU deadline, sources said.

The bank is likely to receive considerably less than the £1.7 billion price agreed with Santander two years ago. The bank withdrew citing difficulties relating to technology and integration.

UBS is advising RBS on the sale process, which has been code named “Rainbow”. RBS declined to comment on the identity of the interested parties.