A group of more than 20 fund managers are preparing to table a takeover offer for 315 Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branches as suitors line up ahead of this week's bid deadline, it was reported.
The consortium, which is being led by Tesco's former finance chief Andrew Higginson, is thought to be the front-runner to secure the RBS branches being put up for sale to appease European Commission rules on state aid.
Mr Higginson is said to have secured the backing of some of the UK's biggest blue-chip institutions for the approach, including Schroders, Invesco Perpetual, Henderson and F&C.
If successful, Mr Higginson - who also ran Tesco's banking operations - is expected to become chairman of the new bank, with plans to hold the branch network in a listed vehicle funded by the investors.
Other bidders also understood to be in the race ahead of Thursday's deadline for formal offers include Corsair Capital, which is working with US private equity firm Centrebridge Capital, and a rival private equity team comprising JC Flowers and Apollo.
But RBS, which must sell the branches following its £45.5 billion bailout at the height of the financial crisis, admitted on announcing annual results last month that it was not confident a sale would be successful.
A previous deal to sell the branches to Santander collapsed as it was reportedly hit by delays and technology problems.
RBS has hived off the branches into a separate arm under the Williams & Glyn's brand and is offering it as a business with around £20 billion of deposits and loans, 1.7 million retail customers and 240,000 small-business clients.
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