The statement came after the Takeover Panel rejected an appeal by BoS's advisers, Morgan Stanley and CSFB, against an earlier ruling that it would not set a date by which RBS would have to clarify its intentions towards NatWest. Analysts said the remarks came dangerously close to an admission by BoS that it would raise its offer for NatWest if RBS entered the fray.
BoS had originally asked the Panel to force RBS to make a clear statement of its intentions within 48 hours of the publication of NatWest's defence document. BoS had argued that the uncertainty over RBS' intentions was creating a false market in NatWest shares.
However, the Panel turned down the request on the grounds that it did not want to be seen to be changing the tactical balance in the bid battle by "requiring RBS to decide its intentions prior to the final date for revision of BOS offer".
But the Panel made it clear that, in line with its practice in previous bid situations, it expects RBS to make a statement on whether it intends to bid no later than 10 days before the end of the BoS offer timetable. That means in effect by 3 December, the day after RBS' results.