Virgin Money, JC Flowers bid for RBS branches: sources

LONDON Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:09am EST

A flag flies over the former headquarters and registered office of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Edinburgh, Scotland March 29, 2012. REUTERS/David Moir

A flag flies over the former headquarters and registered office of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Edinburgh, Scotland March 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/David Moir

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LONDON (Reuters) - Richard Branson's Virgin Money and U.S. private equity group JC Flowers have submitted bids for 316 bank branches being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

But Nationwide, Britain's biggest customer-owned financial services group, which previously indicated an interest in the branches, did not proceed with a bid, a spokesman told Reuters.

UBS (UBSN.VX) received non-binding first-round bids on behalf of RBS at noon on Thursday, three sources familiar with the process told Reuters.

Bidders have not yet been told whether RBS will select a preferred bidder from the initial offers, or whether a shortlist will be invited to submit second-round bids.

RBS, which is 82 percent owned by the British taxpayer, must sell the branches by 2014 as a condition of its 45.5 billion pounds ($73.4 billion) government rescue.

No further developments are expected until January, two sources familiar with the process told Reuters. One source confirmed that Virgin Money had bid. Two confirmed JC Flowers' offer.

UK private equity firm AnaCap was also reportedly interested in bidding for the branches, which were almost sold to Santander (SAN.MC) in a 1.65 billion pounds deal that collapsed in mid October.

A spokesman for AnaCap said the firm had no comment on the RBS branches. Spokespeople for Virgin Money and JC Flowers also declined to comment, as did a spokesman for RBS.

Nationwide Chief Executive Graham Beale told Reuters on November 27 that the branches "would be of interest" in the context of the building society's push into small-business (SME) lending.

"We haven't bid," a spokesman told Reuters on Friday. "We will continue to pursue growth in the SME and current-account market organically."

The branches being sold have 1.8 million customers and generated about 10 percent of RBS's group operating profit in the first half of 2012.

(Reporting By Laura Noonan; Editing by Kylie MacLellan and David Holmes)

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