Barclays eyes Standard Life Bank division

BARCLAYS is eyeing a bid for the banking operations of insurance titan Standard Life, sources close to the situation said yesterday.<br /><br />The insurer is understood to have put its Standard Life Bank unit up for sale at a price of between &pound;200m and &pound;300m and people familiar with Barclays&rsquo; plans said that the business would fit in well with the bank&rsquo;s current strategy.<br /><br />Barclays, led by chief executive John Varley, has been quick to take advantage of rivals&rsquo; efforts to hive off non-core units, making a series of acquisitions in the past year, including the Goldfish credit card business and the mortgage book of Australia&rsquo;s Macquarie.<br /><br />But the lender is still looking to make selective acquisitions and would welcome the chance to add the Standard Life Bank to its stable.<br /><br />The insurer has faced pressure from shareholders to sell the division and finance director David Nish, tipped to succeed Sir Sandy Crombie as chief executive, is understood to be leading efforts to offload the bank, which holds savings and mortgages worth &pound;14.3bn.<br /><br />Barclays is also understood to be close to a deal for the Portuguese credit card operations of US bank Citigroup, whose chief executive Vikram Pandit is disposing of non-core assets.<br /><br />The bank&rsquo;s head of retail and commercial banking Frits Seegers is thought to be in talks over several deals for units in Europe, with Citi&rsquo;s Portuguese operations expected to be priced at around &pound;50m.<br /><br />Unlike UK rivals Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays will not be forced to dispose of assets by the EU because it did not require state aid in the banking crisis.