RBS close to sale of Asia businesses

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Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 70 per cent owned by the taxpayer, has moved closer to selling its Asian businesses after two suitors emerged as front-runners to secure a deal.

Standard Chartered and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) are closing in on a deal to split RBS's retail and commercial banking divisions in Asia. HSBC is also understood to be still in involved in the process.

The companies are understood to be at an "advanced stage" of what has been, at times, a tortuous sale process. None of the potential bidders commented yesterday.

Standard Chartered has targeted RBS's operations in China and India, with ANZ after branches across Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore. RBS had hoped to sell the entire business for about $2bn (£1.2bn), but was unable to find a buyer, and has decided to listen to offers for individual businesses. The total auction is now expected to fetch only half the sum originally desired.

n RBS's chief executive, Stephen Hester, has written to the Association of British Insurers pledging to keep shares awarded under his controversial £9.7m remuneration package for an extra two years after the vesting date.