Presenting a detailed rebuttal of NatWest's claims that its bid was "risky, ill thought-out" and would lead customers to desert en masse, BoS said it had spent four years studying NatWest and was convinced it could boost revenues at NatWest by at least 5 per cent a year. Gavin Masterton, the BoS chief operating officer, said there were significant gaps in the NatWest branch network in England and Wales and NatWest had failed to develop its business on a national scale.
"This is one of the key opportunities for growth under Bank of Scotland ownership. Bank of Scotland intends to be net branch opener not a branch closer," he said. Yesterday's shift suggests the bank has been stung by claims it has adopted a slash and burn approach in contrast to the RBOS which appears to have been more successful in convincing the NatWest board it has a better recipe for turning NatWest around.
But yesterday's detailed presentation was quickly dismissed by NatWest as a u-turn. Sir David Rowland said: "Its (BoS) inflated claims and the associated risks mean NatWest's shareholders should give Bank of Scotland's proposals a wide berth."
Mr Masterton, selected to oversee BoS's integration plans, said: "Bank of Scotland believes that its success is due in a large part to its entrepreneurial, `can do' and professional culture of its staff."
He insisted plans to sell NatWest's non-core business and slash the cost base by pounds 1.015bn were the first stage in an effort to reposition a bank which he maintained had been steadily losing market share.