NBNK suspends shares during bank talks

YORKSHIRE Bank’s suitor NBNK Investments has suspended its shares following confirmation it is in takeover talks with an unnamed bank.

Yorkshire Bank’s parent company National Australia Bank is in talks to sell the 152-year old institution and its sister Clydesdale Bank to NBNK, a new banking venture headed up by Lloyd’s of London chairman Lord Levene. NBNK said that any deal would constitute a reverse takeover of the company.

It added there is no certainty a transaction will be forthcoming, but it has suspended its shares in view of the size of the business it is seeking to buy and the level of Press speculation.

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The suspension will ensure any further speculation does not trigger sharp price movements in the shares.

NBNK said further announcements will be made in due course.

NBNK wants to buy Yorkshire and Clydesdale as a precursor to buying the 632 Lloyds branches that have been put up for sale.

Yorkshire and Clydesdale have long been subject to speculation that their Australian parent will sell its UK assets once the British economy picks up.

NAB group chief executive Cameron Clyne has said he wants to grow the business organically, but he will also look at other available options.

Lloyds’ has to sell 632 branches in order to get the European Commission’s seal of approval for its takeover of Halifax Bank of Scotland in 2009 at the height of the banking crisis.

If NBNK were to buy NAB’s UK operations as well as the Lloyds sites it would have nearly 1,000 branches, which would make it one of the UK’s largest high street banks. NAB has 187 Yorkshire Bank branches and 152 Clydesdales.

The three bidders currently in the running for the Lloyds branches are NBNK, The Co-Operative Group’s banking arm and Sun Capital Partners.

Analysts believe the 632 Lloyds branches could fetch around £2.5bn.

Lloyds is in the process of assessing bidders for its branches ahead of a September 30 deadline for second-round bids.