Royal Bank of Scotland has taken another step towards the much delayed spin-off of Williams & Glyn by applying for a banking licence for the 300-strong network.
The sale of the branches is being forced upon RBS by the EU under the terms of its £45bn taxpayer bailout in 2008. RBS – about 73% owned by the taxpayer – has already missed the November 2013 deadline imposed by the EU after a deal to the sell branches to Santander fell apart in 2012.
RBS is now aiming to float the branches on the stock market in the last three months of 2016 although the W&G brand – last seen on the high street in the 1980s – will appear in England, Wales and Scotland before then.
W&G was created by RBS in 1969 to unite its English and Welsh branches and will now replace all RBS branches in England and Wales – thought to amount to about 300 – and the six NatWest branches in Scotland. Originally 316 branches were included the disposal, although closures in the intervening period have reduced the size of the business.
The W&G branches will be partly owned by a consortium backed by the Church of England and put together by private equity firm Corsair, which clinched a deal with RBS in 2013. Its creation is also regarded by the government as an attempt to inject competition in to high street banking.
W&G is now run by Jim Brown, who was appointed in April when John Maltby, who led the consortium, left. “This is an important moment for us. Bringing together our banking licence application over the last few months has required huge effort and dedication. This application demonstrates how we’ll create an exciting retail and commercial bank for customers here in the UK,” said Brown.
The application to the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority runs to over 16,000 pages.
The taxpayer’s stake in RBS has fallen to about 73% after the first shares since the 2008 bailout were sold off in August, when the government owned 79% of the Edinburgh-based bank.
This article was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Thursday 1st October 2015 18.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010