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April 26, 2010    

Blackstone and Wellcome Trust withdraw bid for RBS branches

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by Kay Murchie

According to reports, US buyout firm Blackstone and UK medical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, have dropped their joint bid for Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) 318 Williams & Glyn’s branch network.

The branch network is being sold under the orders of the European Commission as a punishment of the billions of pounds in state aid that RBS received by the Government.

Williams & Glyn’s disappeared as a brand from the High Street 24 years ago but it has been maintained as a legal entity that files accounts at Companies House.

Its history dates back to 1753 and was the RBS branch network in England before its acquisition of NatWest at the start of the millennium.

Last month, it emerged that Spanish banking giant Santander was the frontrunner for taking over the branch network since it is believed to be one of the few bidders with enough resources.

Santander became a household name in the UK when it acquired Abbey for £9.5 billion back in 2004.

Virgin Money, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has also made it clear that it is interested in the network, as is National Australia Bank.

However, returning to Blackstone and Wellcome, the joint bidders withdrew after the bank, which is 84% owned by the taxpayer, narrowed its list of potential buyers.

Bids for the branches are believed to be between £1 billion and £2 billion. Blackstone and RBS declined to comment. The Wellcome Trust was not immediately available for comment.

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