March 22, 2013 8:30 pm

Ex-FSA chief to lead bid for RBS branches

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The former head of the Financial Services Authority is to front a bid to buy the 316 branches being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland which it has to sell.

John Tiner, who was chief executive of the City watchdog in the run-up to the financial crisis, has been brought in to lead a bid from a consortium of investors, comprising the likes of Standard Life and RIT Capital, Lord Jacob Rothschild’s vehicle, as well as private equity firms Corsair and Centerbridge.

The consortium – one of at least half a dozen potential buyers to have made approaches to RBS by Thursday’s bid deadline – plans to invest more than £500m in the deal ahead of a float, according to people briefed on the approach.

“The intention is to work with RBS to achieve a successful [initial public offering],” said one person familiar with the plan submitted to the bank this week.

Mr Tiner would be chairman of the venture, working with John Maltby, former Lloyds director and now a partner at Corsair, as chief executive.

The investment would be initially made into a debt instrument issued by RBS but would later convert into equity in the hived-off portfolio of branches. The network, which essentially comprises the group’s NatWest branches in Scotland and RBS branches in England and Wales, is being carved out as a separate entity, with an estimated value of £1bn.

RBS is required to sell the branches as part of the penalty imposed by the European Commission following the group’s bailout by the UK government in 2008. It had planned a sale to Spain’s Santander, but the Spanish bank pulled out after months of wrangling over IT issues.

RBS is now planning to float the business under the old Williams & Glyn’s brand, once it has carved out a freestanding technology platform to support it. However, the bank has said it remains open to a bid for the whole business, or for an anchor investor to help support an IPO.

Mr Tiner’s initiative will be going head-to-head with another consortium of investors – comprising the likes of F&C, Invesco Perpetual and Schroders – led by Andrew Higginson, the former Tesco finance director. That plan would also involve a pre-IPO investment, according to people familiar with it.

Among the other parties to have expressed interest in the RBS branches are Virgin Money, backed by US financier Wilbur Ross, as well as private equity firms JC Flowers, Apollo and Anacap.

RBS has a formal deadline from the EU to complete a sale by the end of the year. The bank is now evaluating the various approaches and is expected to take several months to decide on a way forward before seeking a deadline extension from Brussels.

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