Spanish banking giant Santander today confirmed its bid for more than 300 branches being sold off by part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland.
The owner of Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley is the sole bidder for the 318 branches which NatWest owner RBS is disposing of to appease European fears over competition.
The business being sold has around three million customers - two-thirds of which are small businesses - and consists of RBS branches in England and Wales as well as its NatWest outlets in Scotland.
The deadline for bidders closed on Monday with reports putting Santander's offer at between £1.5 billion and £1.8 billion for the business - below its initial £2 billion price.
RBS has been given until 2013 to complete the sale although Santander said today that it "was not possible to say" when the tender process would conclude.
But it is understood that the deal is unlikely to complete before 2011 because RBS must write to all the customers of the branches under the Financial Services and Markets Act seeking any objections to their transfer to another bank.