LONDON - U.S. private equity firm Blackstone and British buyout firm Resolution Group have talked to National Australia Bank about teaming up for its possible bid for more than 300 Royal Bank of Scotland branches, people familiar with the matter said.
NAB is mulling an offer for 318 branches and RBS asked potential suitors to express interest by the start of this week, sources have previously said. RBS is being forced to sell by European competition authorities.
NAB had held talks with at least five parties about how to fund its expansion in Britain, the Financial Times said.
Resolution said on Friday its priority remained deals in the insurance sector, but it also looks at other areas. It had held talks with NAB, but was unlikely to seek non-insurance deals until its project in that sector is complete, probably some time in 2011, a person familiar with the matter said.
Blackstone's talks with NAB were at a very early stage and the U.S. firm sees a number of opportunities in the sector, a separate source said. It is already considering backing a new UK bank, the Home and Savings Bank.
NAB and Blackstone declined to comment.
Several banks and other firms are looking to take advantage of upheaval in Britain's battered banking sector, but in a sign investor appetite remains fragile new bank Walton & Co. has scrapped plans to raise 200 million pounds ($314 million) through a stock market flotation next week.
(Reporting by Simon Meads, Myles Neligan, Steve Slater and Susan Fenton; Editing by Gary Hill and Erica Billingham)
($1 = 0.6363 pound)