Virgin Money appoints Moreno chairman in runup to possible flotation
By Matt Scuffham
LONDON (Reuters) - Virgin Money, the British challenger bank partly owned by entrepreneur Richard Branson, named experienced industry figure Glen Moreno as chairman as it reported strong profit growth, putting it in good shape for an impending stock market listing.
Moreno, previously senior independent director at Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: Quote) and acting chairman of UK Financial Investments, which manages the British government's stakes in bailed-out banks, will replace David Clementi as chairman in mid-2015, the bank said.
Also serving as chairman of publisher Pearson (PSON.L: Quote), Moreno will become an independent non-executive director and chairman designate from January 2015.
Virgin Money, which bought nationalised lender Northern Rock in 2011, reported underlying first-half pretax profit of 59.7 million pounds ($96.9 million), up from 13.1 million the year before, when it made its first profit since the Northern Rock deal. Total income rose 28.3 percent to 210 million.
"The bank's strategy has delivered sustainable, responsible growth and a strong return to profitability. It is now one of the best performing challenger banks," Moreno said.
Industry sources expect Virgin Money, also backed by U.S. private equity tycoon Wilbur Ross, to list on the London Stock Exchange (LSE.L: Quote) as early as next month.
The bank has not commented on the timing of any flotation, however it is one of a number of new British banks eyeing up stock market listings and looking to break the dominance of the country's "Big Four" lenders - Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: Quote), HSBC (HSBA.L: Quote) and Barclays (BARC.L: Quote).