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Virgin and JC Flowers eye RBS branches deal

RBS Royal Bank of Scotland 440

Virgin Money and private equity group JC Flowers are weighing up potential bids for 316 Royal Bank of Scotland branches after an agreement to sell them to Santander collapsed last week, according to the Financial Times.

According to the FT, Virgin is one of three potential bidders for the package, which includes the branches, 1.8m retail customers and almost 250,000 small business accounts.

JC Flowers founder Christopher Flowers is said to be interested in making a competing bid as part of a plan to expand the firm’s UK lender, One Savings Bank.

Santander pulled out of the deal to buy the RBS branches – agreed for a price of £1.65bn in August 2010 – on Thursday amid concerns over the completion date and integration complications. The deal was initially set to conclude at the end of 2011, however Santander feared it may take until 2014 to transfer the business.

Virgin lost out to Santander in the initial bidding war when RBS held auctions for the branches in 2010. Virgin acquired about 75 retail branches through the acquisition of Northern Rock which was agreed in November 2011.

RBS is under pressure to sell the stake within the next 15 months to comply with an EU deadline to comply with state aid rules. However, given the complexity of the deal the bank is expected to ask for an extension.

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