LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and U.S. group Sempra Energy (SRE.N) have received a trio of bids worth about $4 billion for their commodities joint venture, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) and Australian bank Macquarie (MQG.AX) each submitted offers worth near $4 billion for RBS Sempra under a Wednesday deadline, the source said.
RBS Sempra, a major player in commodities from oil and natural gas to metals and agricultural products, would offer entry into a lucrative market with a diverse global trading book, or a chance to significantly bulk up in commodities.
RBS paid $1.7 billion for its stake in April 2008 and Sempra Energy invested $1.6 billion.
RBS -- majority-owned by the British government -- is being forced to sell its 51 percent interest in RBS Sempra by European competition authorities due to the bailouts it has received.
Sempra Energy is also considering selling its stake, sources have told Reuters.
RBS, Deutsche Bank, and Macquarie all declined to comment. JPMorgan was not available to comment.
SUITORS PITCHThe interest in RBS Sempra -- formed in 2008 after RBS acquired a controlling stake in Sempra Commodities for $1.7 billion -- has been whittled down from about 20 firms at the start of the sale process, sources have said.
Deutsche Bank said last month it was keen to strengthen in commodities. It said at an investor day it aimed to be among the top five commodities firms, improving on its No. 6 position.
New York-based JP Morgan has picked up assets and market share after weathering the financial crisis better than most rivals. Its rivals Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) are the top two commodities firms.
Macquarie, which operates in 28 countries, is already active in commodities which along with its fixed income and currencies arms provide services to commodity producers and consumers and operates in most major trading markets and emerging markets around the world, according to its website.
RBS has four years to sell its stake, but is attempting to sell it more quickly than other assets such as its insurance arm or British retail branches, as the business would lose value if staff leave or uncertainty about the business persisted.
RBS Sempra Commodities is a major player in energy, metals, soft commodities, biofuels and green credit -- including trading, physical commodities, trading in commodity derivatives and risk management products. It has remained profitable and said its strong risk management controls have been tested during the past several commodity cycles.
It is a leading power and gas marketer with a primary focus on the North American and the European wholesale markets and a worldwide trader of oil and oil products. It is a leading metals trading group, specializing in base metals, precious metals, steel and plastics.
Lazard is handling the auction which is expected to be finalized in late January or February, sources said. It would not comment.
(Additional reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Victoria Howley in London and Edward Taylor in Frankfurt; Editing by David Holmes and Dan Lalor)