Exclusive: RBS receives bids for Greek shipping business - sources
By Jonathan Saul, Sophie Sassard and Andrew MacAskill
LONDON (Reuters) - The Royal Bank of Scotland has received bids for its Greek ship finance business, banking and financial sources familiar with the matter said, following a leap in bad shipping debts at the lender over the past few months.
They told Reuters that the operation was worth about $3 billion although sources in the shipping business said that problems with lending to the industry, much of which is in a deep downturn, would affect the value of what could be recouped via a sale.
Credit Suisse and China Merchants were among the suitors bidding, the sources said.
RBS and Credit Suisse declined to comment, while China Merchants did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The British bank, which was rescued with a 46 billion-pound government bailout during the financial crisis, had previously been a top lender to the global shipping industry and its Greek office played a pivotal role. The business also includes a banking license as well as about 40 staff, the sources said.
"RBS has held preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties," one source said. "The big difference here is they are not selling a portfolio of loans but a business, with staff in it able to do the debt collection stuff."
RBS, which is 73-percent state-owned, is in the midst of a restructuring aimed at returning the bank to profit after eight straight years of losses. In July 2015, Reuters reported it was winding down its Greek operation and putting its shipping loans portfolio up for sale.
While the oil tanker trade has picked up, the container and dry bulk shipping industries are struggling with a glut of ships, a faltering global economy and weaker consumer demand. Continued...