Race for RBS assets hots up as bids fly in

Steve Dinneen
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THE main players in the battle to snap up 318 Royal Bank of Scotland branches have all tabled indicative bids, City A.M. has learned.

Santander, Virgin Money and National Australia Bank, the owner of Clydesdale Bank, have all privately confirmed their interest in the state-owned assets. It is also thought Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentina (BBVA) and private equity firm JC Flowers & Co have signalled they are serious about buying the assets.

RBS is being forced to sell the branches, which are expected to raise up to £2bn, as punishment for accepting bailout money during the financial crisis. Virgin gained ground on the favourite Santander after revealing it has built a war-chest of up to £500m thanks to new billionaire stakeholder, 72-year-old Wilbur Ross.

Industry sources say Virgin will make guarantees to the tax payer that it will not close any of the branches or make any staff redundant in the wake of a takeover.

The buyer will take about five per cent each of the UK’s small business and mid-sized corporate markets. The branches have about 1.8m retail customers, or two per cent of the market.

The task of separating the branches is likely to be complex. The business has about £24bn in loans and £22.5bn of deposits, with 6,000 staff.

All banks declined to comment.

RBS yesterday launched its planned bond exchange and buy-back to restructure up to £15.8bn of debt.