RBS pares WorldPay bid list, UK payments firm out

LONDON, April 14 Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:35pm EDT

LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) is whittling down the list of suitors for its 3 billion-pound ($4.6 billion) payment processing firm, with UK payments firm Voice Commerce and other suitors out of the running.

About 10 buyout and trade firms made indicative bids for RBS's Global Merchant Services (GMS) unit, which includes the WorldPay business, by a deadline a week ago. [ID:nLDE6360GZ]

RBS and its adviser on the deal, UBS (UBSN.VX)(UBS.N), are expected to cut that down to a shortlist of about six groups by Friday or early next week, people familiar with the matter said.

Voice Commerce Group, an unlisted payments firm run by Nick Ogden, a founder of part of RBS WorldPay, said it made a "substantial" cash bid, but was turned down.

"We made a fully funded bid for what we thought the business was worth," Ogden told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday.

He proposed to make the acquisition with a listed shell company, which Voice Commerce would have been merged into. He declined to say how much his bid was for and said his company was looking at other opportunities as the financial industry reshapes after the financial crisis. [ID:nLDE61L0WE]

Most of the bidders for WorldPay are buyout firms. They include a joint Advent International/Bain Capital bid and others from Warburg Pincus [WP.UL], Permira [PERM.UL], CVC [CVC.UL], Carlyle, TPG [TPG.UL] and Providence, sources said.

One or two trade buyers may also still be in the hunt. French software firm Atos Origin (ATOS.PA) was interested, sources have said, but it was not clear if it was still in the running.

The business is expected to sell for between 2 billion and 3 billion pounds, industry sources estimate, and a competitive auction could push the price near the top of the range.

RBS could also provide financing for a deal and has said it may keep a stake of up to 20 percent.

The business is the largest payment-processing firm in Europe and the fourth biggest globally, but several sources have said it has been under-invested in in recent years. It is also likely to require substantial investment in technology, and carving out the business from RBS is expected to be complex, they added.

RBS is being forced to sell WorldPay and other assets including a network of 318 branches and its commodities business by European competition authorities as a cost of being bailed out by taxpayers during the financial crisis. ($1=.6478 Pound) (Reporting by Steve Slater, Victoria Howley, Simon Meads in London and Paritosh Bansal in New York; Editing by Louise Heavens and Simon Jessop)

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