OFT hands Byers advice on Royal Bank of Scotland bid for NatWest

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The Independent Online
THE OFFICE of Fair Trading confirmed yesterday it had passed its advice on Royal Bank of Scotland's bid for National Westminster Bank to the Government on Monday, boosting RBS's hopes of getting a green light for its bid before Christmas.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary for Trade and Industry, took three days to decide last month not to refer the rival bid by Bank of Scotland for NatWest.

Mr Byers has been given until 29 December to rule on whether to refer RBS's bid to the Competition Commission. However, the fact that he has already received the advice would appear to support RBS's belief that Mr Byers is likely to pronounce on the bid by Thursday at the latest. Although there is an overlap between the branch networks of NatWest and RBS in the Greater Manchester area, competition lawyers still believe a referral is unlikely.

RBS was preparing to offer to dispose some of its branches to avoid a competition referral, which would give Bank of Scotland a clear run at NatWest.

Under Takeover Panel rules, RBS has to post its offer document by 26 December, hence its eagerness to see its bid approved this week.

According to RBS's annual report, published yesterday, the salary of Sir George Mathewson, RBS's chief executive, rose 11 per cent in the financial year to 30 September to pounds 836,000. Fred Goodwin, his deputy, made pounds 592,000. By contrast Peter Burt, chief executive of Bank of Scotland, was paid pounds 486,000 in 1998, while its group treasurer Gavin Masterton was paid pounds 404,000.

Sir George was sitting on shares and options worth around pounds 3.8m at yesterday's share price.