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Kent Reliance Owner Flowers Eyes Irish, U.K. Acquisitions Amid Debt Crisis

Financier J. Christopher Flowers said he’s planning purchases in Europe as he expects the sovereign debt crisis won’t spread to Spain and Italy.

“I think Spanish and European authorities will avoid this turning into a sovereign debt crisis for Spain,” he said in an interview in London today. “My own guess is that this crisis will be contained, that Spain will get through this okay and Italy as well.”

The founder of New York-based private equity firm J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC is looking at Irish banking assets and sees “potentially interesting deals” in the U.K, he said in a separate Bloomberg Television interview. He said he aims to use his recent investment in U.K. Kent Reliance Building Society as a platform for further acquisitions in the country.

“We’ve taken a look at Irish banks and if we can find the right opportunity to invest in Ireland, we would like to do that,” Flowers said. “In Britain as well. We hope through that investment in Kent Reliance to do more in this country.”

Leveraged buyout firms including J.C. Flowers and Washington-based Carlyle Group have raised funds targeting banking assets as the most severe financial crisis in decades is forcing lenders to sell assets. Private equity firms have led $49.5 billion of takeovers in the financial services industry since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Kent Reliance

J.C. Flowers said in August it will inject 50 million pounds ($78 million) into U.K. residential mortgage lender Kent Reliance as part of a plan to acquire more customer-owned banks in the U.K. The U.S. buyout firm was among the bidders for EBS Building Society, Ireland’s largest customer-owned lender, three people familiar with knowledge of the situation said in Sept.

“Retail banking is an attractive area in all parts of the world,” Flowers said today during the interview.

Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, is selling 600 branches and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc is selling its Churchill insurance division to comply with European Union state aid rules following their rescue.

“There are a number of transactions that are potentially interesting in the U.K., and we hope to be a participant in some of those,” Flowers said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in London at achassany@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

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