Providian 'talking to buyers for UK'

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The Independent Online

The British arm of the US-based Providian National Bank said this week it was in detailed discussions with several potential buyers and it expects to continue trading. It stopped taking new business in November when the American parent company was in serious financial difficulties. But Providian refused to say if the 10,000 depositors in the UK bank would get all their money back.

Readers of The Independent have complained about the failure of the bank to repay deposits, even when they forfeited interest to make urgent withdrawals. One reader told us his request arrived at the bank by recorded delivery on 17 December, but he was still waiting to be repaid. Apparently, that was sent this week, after The Independent intervened.

Providian has attracted millions of pounds in savings, plus 500,000 credit cardholders through highly attractive rates. The bank said cardholders would be unaffected by the sale and the UK operation was financially viable. Les Stillwell, the UK managing director, said: "We are in the early stages of the sale of Providian in the UK. It is likely to take monthsand we have a substantial number of interested parties."

Deposits with Providian are covered by the Financial Service Authority's compensation scheme, guaranteeing the first £2,000 of capital, and 90 per cent of the next £33,000, but nothing more than that.