RBS is believed to be playing tough with bidders for the 316 branches it is being forced to sell off, reminding potential buyers that its default option is a public offering of shares, not a trade sale.
The bank had planned to sell the branches and their customers to Santander, but the Spanish bank backed out last year. RBS has to sell the branches under the terms of its bailout, though the November 2013 deadline is now unlikely to be hit.
A range of buyers lined up to bid for the branches, but Sky News discovered private equity firms Apollo and JC Flowers’ bid has been rejected.
That leaves private equity firms Corsair Capital and Centrebridge, and a City consortium backing ex-Tesco finance head Andy Higginson as the leading bids.
However RBS is thought to be keeping the pressure on bidders for the highest possible price by demonstrating the alternative – a full initial public offering.
It is already preparing to float at least some of the unit, and could extend that to the whole business if it does not feel a strong offer is forthcoming from trade buyers.
The bank declined to comment.