Virgin Money and Co-op among bidders for Lloyds branches

Virgin Money, the Co-operative Group and start up bank NBNK have placed bids to take over the 632 branches Lloyds Banking group is selling off, according to reports.

Lloyds have been told to sell off the branches by the European Commission as part of the agreement surrounding its bailout. When Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio took over on March 1 he set July 11 as a deadline for bids.

According to the Guardian, National Australia Bank was last night still considering entering a bid but was seeking an extension of the deadline for more time to decide. The original deadline for Lloyds to have identified potential buyers was the end of November 2011. The Melbourne based bank is regarded as one of the most credible bidders because it has the infrastructure to take on the branches.

Today the Government is due to respond to a major Treasury select committee report on competition and choice in the banking sector. Published in April, it called for the introduction of a public interest test for the divestment to ensure the move was taken to increase competition and not just revenue.

It said: “A failure to introduce such a test would be tantamount to admission that the Government has no real interest in promoting competition.”

NBNK is a new venture backed by former Lloyds of London chairman Lord Laverne and former Northern Rock chief executive Gary Hoffman.

Speaking to Money Marketing this morning, Lloyds refused to confirm or deny any of the bidders. The divestment must be complete by November 2013.