Wellcome, Blackstone team up for UK bank bid

The two giants of the private equity and real estate world are joining forces to buy 318 RBS branches. RBS has also attracted bids from Banco Santander, National Australia Bank and JC Flowers.

The Wellcome Trust, a £13 billion (€15 billion; $20 billion) UK charitable foundation, has teamed up with The Blackstone Group to bid to buy 318 branches being sold by the Royal Bank of Scotland, a Wellcome spokeswoman has confirmed. Blackstone declined to comment. 

Royal Bank
of Scotland

The branch sell-off by RBS will help the bank comply with European Union regulations following its bailout by the UK government in 2008 and has attracted bids from such entities as Banco Santander, National Australia Bank and financial services-focused private equity firm JC Flowers, according to a report from news agency Bloomberg.
The Blackstone/Wellcome bid comes after weeks of speculation surrounding Blackstone’s intentions for the UK banking market after it emerged that the firm had applied to the Financial Services Authority for a UK banking license.
If the consortium is successful it would represent the second time that Blackstone and Wellcome have teamed up to acquire a retail banking platform. In May 2009, the two institutions were part of a larger consortium – including private equity firms The Carlyle Group, Centerbridge Partners and WL Ross – to back a $900 million buyout of failed Floridian bank BankUnited.
The RBS bid comes as Wellcome, which is one of Europe’s most influential private equity LPs, has expressed a desire to execute more direct co-investments as part of its private equity investment programme.