Spowart’s last-ditch grab for HBOS ‘is not taken seriously’

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The Independent Online

A last-ditch bid for HBOS which would derail the bank’s agreed tie-up with Lloyds TSB has been dismissed by sources close to the Treasury.

Scottish financier and Intelligent Finance founder Jim Spowart was revealed to be fronting an alternative proposal yesterday, the day after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, gave the green light to the planned purchase of HBOS by the Sir Victor Blank-led Lloyds TSB.

The identity of the bank behind Mr Spowart is not known, but it has been described as a “financial services company with a global reach”. Mr Spowart, who said the proposal was in the early stages, has spent the week in talks with the Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy, who has been trying to secure an alternative buyer for HBOS.

There has been considerable unease in Scotland over the possible fallout of Lloyds’ acquisition of HBOS, with thousands of jobs thought to be on the line. The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, repeated his opposition to the deal last week.

But sources close to the Treasury said: “Peter Mandelson passed the deal on Friday. I really don’t think much is going to come of this supposed offer. But if it does, then of course we’ll have to take a look at it.”

Another source said: “We’re not exactly taking this seriously. They don’t have any advisers.”

News of a possible rival offer for HBOS came amid growing anger over the decision of Barclays Bank to raise more than £7bn from Middle Eastern sources to shore up its balance sheet.

One Barclays shareholder, who declined to be named, said: “There are a lot of grumpy people around on this. People feel as though they have a gun to their head. This cash is very expensive and pre-emption rights have been ignored. There’s also a worry as to why they need this money so quickly.”

Some investors have contacted the Association of British Insurers to try to negotiate a better deal.

Unlike HBOS, LloydsTSB and Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays shunned the government-funded bailout deal, preferring to secure additional capital through the private market.

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