Business briefs: RBS seeks end of Rainbow with sale | Global Energy Group | Oil and gas | Investment

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Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is set to float the 316 branches it is being forced to divest by the European Commission after failing to find a straight buyer for the business.

The branches, with more than two million customer accounts, will reportedly be spun off as a standalone bank in a £1 billion initial public offering known as “Project Rainbow”. It had intended to sell the branches to rival Santander but the deal collapsed.

The news comes as RBS prepares for an expected £500 million fine for its part in the Libor scandal.

Oil sector looks at new companies

Corporate activity in the oil and gas industry is set to increase this year, as investors shift their attention from re-capitalising ventures to supporting new businesses, according to Ernst & Young.

The accountancy firm’s latest Oil and Gas Eye index – which measures the performance of the sector’s junior companies – forecasts a rise in both flotations and transaction activity after a 54 per cent slump in cash raised by oil firms on the Alternative Investment Market last year. At £467 million, Ernst says the figure will lead to fierce competition for capital.

Dividend payments hit record £80.4bn

Investors in UK companies scooped a record £80.4 billion in dividends in 2012, according to Capita Registrars.

The figure is up £11.2bn on the previous year, boosted by a glut of special dividends which flattered the total by £6.8bn, mostly in the first six months.

Capita says it expects one-off payouts to fall this year but underlying growth will continue, leaving the total about the same.

The firm’s latest forecast implies underlying dividend growth of 6.7 per cent in 2013, with UK equities yielding 4.5 per cent.

Australian boost for Global Energy

SCOTS oil and gas services firm Global Energy Group (GEG) has completed a third acquisition in Australia.

The Inverness-based company snapped up a 2,000 square metres fabrication yard near Perth with its acquisition of Oil and Gas Engineering for an undisclosed sum.

Chief executive Iain MacGregor said: “We have been focused on acquiring fabrication facilities since day one due to significant demand.”

The company opened its first Australian office in 2011.

The business, which owns the Nigg fabrication yard in Easter Ross, employs 4,000 worldwide.