Spanish grab initiative in bidding war for Abbey

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The Independent Online

Banco Santander is making an attempt to seize back the initiative in its £8.3bn takeover of Abbey National, speeding up its bid timetable while rival bidders continue to circle the UK bank.

Banco Santander is making an attempt to seize back the initiative in its £8.3bn takeover of Abbey National, speeding up its bid timetable while rival bidders continue to circle the UK bank.

Juan Inciarte, the head of the Spanish bank's European and consumer finance division, said over the weekend that he expected to get clearance from European regulators on the takeover by 17 September. The bank will then press ahead to complete the transaction by November, rather than the original deadline of the year end.

The accelerated timetable may smoke out potential suitors for Abbey. Santander's agreement does not prevent Abbey from entertaining talks with other parties and HBOS, which is known to have raised the possibility of a takeover with Abbey earlier in the year, is still considering whether or not to bid. HSBC and Lloyds TSB are also thought to be interested, but any bid by a UK bank would probably end in a referral to the Competition Commission.

It is also understood that Santander has offered to give up its seats on the board of Royal Bank of Scotland. The two banks have had an alliance since 1988, and Mr Inciarte and Emilio Botin, Santander's chairman, sit on the RBS board. Sir George Mathewson, chairman of RBS, sits on the Santander board. The relationship has been questioned on competition grounds since Santander launched its bid for Abbey.

It is now understood that Santander is prepared to relinquish the boardroom seats to get clearance from the European competition authorities.

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