Belfast Telegraph

Treasury to rule on RBS 'split'

The Treasury will rule on whether to split Royal Bank of Scotland into a "good" and "bad" bank shortly after the Conservative Party conference, according to a report.

A review commissioned by the Government is expected to reject carving the part-nationalised bank in two, the Independent on Sunday reported.

Meanwhile, RBS is also close to deciding who to sell a package 315 branches to - with a consortium led by private equity fund Corsair said to be in pole position.

Chancellor George Osborne commissioned a report on whether to split 81% state-owned RBS in two in June after it was recommended by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, with investment bank Rothschild due to report back in the autumn.

The report said the Treasury will publish its verdict shortly after the Conservative conference, which starts next Sunday.

Mr Osborne last week began re-privatising another part-nationalised lender, Lloyds Banking Group, by selling a 6% stake for £3.2 billion, netting a £61 million profit.

The RBS bad bank plan has faced heavy criticism in recent months, with an influential ratings agency saying it would likely leave taxpayers worse off, with the costs and complexities exceeding any benefits.

Fitch Ratings last month said splitting out and fully nationalising the bank's toxic assets - such as UK commercial property and Ulster Bank - could pile more debt onto the state and is unlikely to happen.

Outgoing RBS boss Stephen Hester has said a split would be costly and time-consuming, although former Bank of England governor Lord King was a fan of the proposal.

Shareholders in RBS are also plotting to block a break-up of the bank, the Sunday Times reported.

Meanwhile, RBS is said to be leaning towards selling a 315-branch small business bank to Corsair, an investment firm whose executives include former trade minister Lord Davies.

The bank is being forced by Europe to sell the branches following its £45.5 billion bailout at the height of the financial crisis, and could make an announcement within days.

The sale, dubbed Project Rainbow, was dealt a blow last year when Santander pulled out of a deal to buy the branches.

The Treasury and RBS declined to comment.