Jim Armitage: RBS needs to reveal all over that Corsair sale
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Friday 04 October 2013
Outlook Expect much mud-slinging around the Royal Bank of Scotland's sale of 314 branches.
At issue are the terms the winning bidder, Corsair, accepted to beat off the stiff competition.
The sale had a fairly complex structure. Rather than flog the branches for cash, RBS opted to sell a bond that would transfer into shares in the business once it was floated on the stock market. To further complicate matters, part of the Corsair consortium's costs was financed by a loan from RBS.
Suspicions are that Corsair was preferred because it accepted a whopping 10 per cent interest rate from RBS on the financing loan. It is, indeed, hard to see why else the consortium would have accepted such a rate. Plenty of ammo for throwers of the brown stuff, of whom there are many due to the multitude of parties involved in the various failed bidding groups. But 'sources close to the deal' say that the actual rate was nowhere near as high, and that RBS went for the Corsair deal so it could retain a stake and gain from any future rise in value. This does seem more likely than the conspiracists' version of events.
But, so far, RBS refuses to comment on what it describes as a "private commercial transaction". This is patently not good enough. We taxpayers remain owners of 80 per cent of this bank. When it is selling a £600m asset in a complex manner, we deserve more than just a reassuring smile that RBS will see us right.
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