Lloyds gives rivals time to counter NBNK's bid for branches


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The Independent Online

NBNK investments, the investment vehicle planning to establish a new high-street bank, tabled a £1.5bn offer yesterday for the branches that Lloyds Banking Group has put up for sale.

Lloyds was forced to put the 632 branches up for sale by the European Commission in the wake of its takeover of HBOS during the financial crisis. The bank nicknamed the disposal process "Project Verde".

It remains in talks with other parties – believed to include Co-operative Financial Services and Hugh Osmond's Sun Capital Partners – over potential counter-bids. There was some confusion over whether Lloyds had shifted its deadline for bids to encourage further offers, or whether it had even imposed one in the first place.

A source close to one of the bidders said a deadline of 30 September had been imposed, "although it may have been withdrawn". A spokeswoman for Lloyds said no such deadline existed. She said the only deadline "is to make clear our intentions over the future of the branches by the end of the year. It is a complex transaction. We are in active discussions with those who are interested." The Commission has given the bank until the end of 2013 to sell off the branches.

NBNK was set up in August last year with former Northern Rock boss Gary Hoffman as executive director and Lord Levene as chairman. The board also includes Sir David Walker, a former government adviser.