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RBS confident in Sempra sale

ROYAL Bank of Scotland is optimistic of offloading its US commodities business, despite concerns it may be affected by President Barack Obama’s crackdown on proprietary trading.

The Edinburgh-based bank hopes to sell its 51 per cent stake in Sempra Commodities to JPMorgan Chase for around $2bn (£1.2bn) in time for its year-end results on 25 February.

However, the deal has been overshadowed by fears that Obama’s proposed ban on institutions trading on their own account could reduce Sempra’s profitability. Although it makes money trading oil, natural gas and metals on behalf of clients, Sempra derives a significant slice of revenues from proprietary trading.

It has been suggested that JPMorgan could demand a lower price or walk away from the transaction. It is not known whether Deutsche Bank or Australia’s Macquarie, who were previously in the running for the asset, would be interested as they already viewed the price tag as too high.

Last night, sources said the sale was progressing comfortably. RBS is understood to be confident the deal can be rubber-stamped and included in its 2009 results. It had hoped to conclude the sale by this week.

If a sale can be agreed it is likely RBS’ Californian partner in the joint venture, Sempra Energy, will offer its half to the buyer, valuing the total business at $4bn.

RBS shares fell more than eight per cent at one point on Friday, closing 1.8 per cent down at 34.7p.