RBS mull possible £1 billion branch sale

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ROYAL Bank of Scotland could pocket a quick £1 billion if it sells a batch of 316 branches it is being forced to divest to a consortium of city investment groups.

The European Commission is insisting that RBS sell the branches by the end of this year as a condition of state aid, and former Tesco finance director Andy Higginson is reportedly heading a group of institutional investors which is trying to persuade the bank to make a quick sale.

The group is said to be offering more than £1bn in “cash up front” and could do a deal by the summer in a bid to outfox other potential buyers such as Virgin Money and private equity groups Corsair Capital and JC Flowers.

RBS is expected to return to profit when it reports first-quarter figures on Friday. Analysts have pencilled in pre-tax profits of up to £800m, compared a loss of £1.4bn last year.

Meanwhile, Britain’s banks have been given the go-ahead to start paying out an estimated £2bn to small firms for the mis-selling of derivatives products. The Financial Conduct Authority has reportedly told banks to start contacting customers to arrange compensation.