RBS opens talks for US Sempra

ROYAL Bank of Scotland has begun discussions with potential buyers for the US parts of its Sempra Commodities business after JPMorgan paid $1.7bn (£1.1bn) for the European and Asian arms.

JPMorgan yesterday signed a deal for RBS Sempra’s global oil and metal trading operations, plus its coal and gas capabilities on the continent and in the Far East. The American bank said the acquisition would catapult it into the premier league for raw materials dealing, putting it up against established players like Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital.

JPMorgan had originally planned to buy the entire 51 per cent share of the joint venture RBS runs with Sempra Energy in the US. But President Obama’s proposed ban on proprietary trading by banks forced it to reconsider. JPMorgan’s existing portfolio also overlaps with parts of RBS Sempra’s US operations.

Analysts believe RBS may now sell the leftover US power and gas parts of the business to partner Sempra Energy. The Scottish bank received interest from several suitors yesterday, prompting speculation that previous bidders Deutsche Bank and Macquarie may also be eyeing the assets.
An RBS spokesperson said: “We will be divesting our interest and we’re in discussions with Sempra Energy about how we take that forward.”

RBS has four years to sell the unit under a European Union ruling.