AMERICAN Express has teamed up with UK private equity firm Permira to bid for Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) payment-processing arm.
French software firm Atos Origin has also joined the private equity consortium of CVC Capital Partners and Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe to bid for RBS’s Global Merchant Services (GMS) unit, which includes the WorldPay business.
The move follows suggestions that RBS would prefer a sale to a strategic partnership capable of running the payment- processing business.
RBS, 84 per cent state-owned, is being forced by European competition authorities to sell WorldPay and other assets, including a network of 318 branches and its commodities business, to compensate for billions of pounds of taxpayer money injected during the financial crisis.
Industry sources have said the unit is expected to fetch £2.5bn to £3bn.
American Express, Permira, CVC and RBS could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last month sources said five bids, including four from private equity firms, had been selected to move through to the second round.
RBS and its adviser on the deal, UBS, have been whittling down the list of suitors after initial offers were received.
UK payments firm Voice Commerce Group last month dropped out of the fray.
A deal could be concluded as early as late June or July.