Buyout houses bring in help for £2.5bn RBS unit

AMERICAN EXPRESS and Permira, the buyout house, are understood to have joined forces to bid for Royal Bank of Scotland’s £2.5bn payment processing unit.

Vying with them for the asset is a team comprising French IT group Atos Origin and private equity operators CVC Capital Partners and Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe.

RBS’ Global Merchant Services (GMS) arm, which includes the WorldPay and Streamline businesses, processes more than half the shop and restaurant transactions made using cards such as Visa and MasterCard in the UK. RBS is said to have demanded private equity buyers team up with strategic partners because the complexity of the division means its new owner will need specific technical expertise.

RBS, 84 per cent state-owned, is being forced by European competition authorities to sell GMS 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.

Last month, five parties – including four private equity firms – were selected to move to the next stage of the auction. The deadline for second-round bids for GMS is 31 May.