Santander is considering a £2bn acquisition of Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks as part of plans to ramp up its UK presence.
The UK division of the Spanish banking giant is understood to have been plotting a move on the two banks, which are both owned by National Bank of Australia, since it failed to buy 316 branches from Royal Bank of Scotland in October.
The Australian bank is reported to be under pressure from shareholders to offload the loss-making banks, although Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks have a healthy share of the market for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and corporate lending.
Santander declined to comment on the speculation yesterday. In an interview published over the weekend, Santander UK's chief executive Ana Botin said: "Right now, our thinking is that organic growth is what we are aiming for.
"We are currently working on plans to grow our retail business, our SME business, we are building a team for large corporates in the UK which we didn't have before."