Deutsche to advise UKFI

DEUTSCHE Bank has won the government’s biggest advisory mandate since it bailed out failing banks during the financial crisis, with UK Financial Investments (UKFI) bringing the bank on board to secure the privatisation of Northern Rock.

UKFI, which manages the government’s stake in nationalised banks, chose Deutsche ahead of Morgan Stanley, which had been considered the front-runner for the deal but is thought to have been ruled out due to conflicts.

The government insists that it has not yet decided whether it will float the bank or sell it off to private bidders: “There is no presumption at this stage that any particular option will be pursued and no timeframe has yet been set for the return of the company to private ownership,” UKFI?said.

However, the appointment of an adviser makes it likely that the government will start looking for buyers in the coming months. The bank, which comes with branches and IT systems, is estimated to be worth £1.4bn despite recording a £232m loss for last year.

Its ready-to-use branches will make it an appealing prospect for a range of banks trying to break into the high street market. Virgin Money, Tesco Bank and National Australia Bank are all thought to be eyeing the sale with interest, as well as JC Flowers, the private equity firm.

Santander UK?is unlikely to be a bidder after snapping up 318 RBS branches sold off last year. It is still in the process of integrating a string of purchases over recent years.?

The retail banking market will also see Lloyds sell off 600 branches this year under EU mandate due to its taxpayer bailout.