LONDON Feb 1 Virgin Money's new chairman Brian
Pitman said on Monday he is interested in buying Lloyds
(LLOY.L) and RBS (RBS.L) branches if the locations are right.
The veteran banker, who was appointed last week, also said
he believes the government would not sell Northern Rock until
later this year, to give it time to become "sound."
Pitman, the former chairman and CEO of Lloyds TSB, who
built it into one of the biggest in the world, said he wanted
to create a "solid bank" at Virgin Money, establishing a
network of branches.
When asked if he would be interested in buying the branches
put up for sale by Lloyds and RBS, he told Sky News, "We could
well be looking at those, because if they've got branches that
are in locations that we were interested in, then it would
speed up the process of actually establishing branches."
"There's lots of premises available at the moment, there's
no shortage of premises to buy and build up branches from that,
and at very good prices," he added. "Low prices, that would be
an advantage, but of course it wouldn't be as quick as buying
branches of existing banks."
Pitman was an adviser to Virgin Money in its failed attempt
to buy Northern Rock two years ago.
"Everything would depend on the price," he said when asked
if he would be tempted to buy it now. "If the price is right
then we shall be interested."
It was unlikely that there would be any sale until the
second half of the year because the government will "want to
demonstrate that the new good bank, as it were, of Northern
Rock is in a sound position, and that will take a little
He said the bank aims to get into the current account
business because it opens doors to other activities.
"We shall certainly get into the mortgage business and we
shall get into the fixed deposits," he said.
He branded Internet-only banks as a failure.
"You have to have some service centres to meet the
customer, and that is what we shall have to get," he said.
Virgin Money, the banking arm of Virgin Group, last week
completed a 50 million pound deal to buy small bank Church
House, giving it a banking license to act as Richard Branson's
springboard into mainstream banking.
He said the bank would not put a cap on bonuses, and they
would be "pretty modest" compared with those of investment
Pitman, a senior adviser at Morgan Stanley (MS.N), who was
appointed by Britain's financial regulator in November as one
of five advisers to help on a framework for ensuring effective
governance in banks, said there was no doubt that there will be
much higher capital ratios in future.
(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Robert MacMillan)