LONDON Dec 20 Santander UK, the British arm of
Spain's biggest bank, has agreed to sell its portfolio of UK
retail store cards, including those issued by Top Shop and
Santander said it had reached an "agreement in
principle" to sell the business, which has about 7 million
customers, to SAV Credit. It would be a transformation deal for
the specialist credit card lender, owned by U.S. hedge fund
"We expect to close the deal in the first quarter of 2013,"
Santander said in a short statement.
Kent-based SAV added: "We see great opportunities in the
market and are committed to expanding and developing it as part
of our growth strategy.
Santander declined to comment on the size of the loan book
or provide further details. It runs the store cards for Arcadia,
which includes Top Shop and Top Man, House of Fraser, Debenhams
and Laura Ashley.
Santander acquired the business from GE Money in March 2008,
but banks are coming under increased regulatory scrutiny for
mis-selling, including for store cards. Many store cards are not
actively used after being taken out for an initial purchase.
SAV Credit was founded in 2000 and was bought by Varde for
472 million pounds ($768 million) in September 2011.
It has 500,000 accounts and 500 million pounds in credit
card assets under management.
In 2007 it bought the marbles card brand from HSBC
and bought UK Citi card customers in 2010, now rebranded
as Opus. It employs around 70 staff, supported by 300 people at
its servicing partners.