By Laura Noonan
LONDON Dec 14 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,
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 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'
UK private equity firm AnaCap was also reportedly interested
in bidding for the branches, which were almost sold to Santander
in a 1.65 billion pounds deal that collapsed in mid
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 Nov.
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
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.