ROYAL Bank of Scotland may hive off more than 300 of its branches in England and Wales in a bid to satisfy European authorities, it was reported today.
The government-backed plan focuses on 312 branches operating with the RBS name, a network which mostly serves one million small business customers.
The move comes as Neelie Kroes, EU competition commissioner, looks for substantial disposals to compensate for billions of pounds of taxpayer support and the bank’s involvement in the Treasury’s toxic asset insurance scheme.
The Financial Times said the divestment of the branch network could be achieved through a sale to a rival, or to private equity.
And with a stock market listing also an option, RBS has drawn up plans to rebrand the network under the defunct Williams and Glyn’s name.
The bank’s proposals, which do not involve the company’s NatWest branch network in England and Wales, are thought to be well advanced.
The FT said Chancellor Alistair Darling is hopeful that state aid clearance will be secured from Brussels within weeks. The part-nationalised bank is already working on plans to shrink its balance sheet by 20%.
Further details on the disposal programme could accompany the bank’s update on third quarter trading, which is due to be released on November 11.