Santander Said to Drop Williams & Glyn Talks With RBS on Price

Banco Santander SA pulled out of talks with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to buy the British firm’s Williams & Glyn division, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The Spanish lender submitted a formal offer last month to buy the consumer-focused bank, which has 314 branches, about 24.2 billion pounds ($31.4 billion) of assets and 2 million customers. Santander may return to the negotiating table if the Edinburgh-based lender is prepared to lower its asking price, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. The Financial Times reported the bank pulled out of talks earlier Tuesday.

RBS Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan’s struggle to dispose of Williams & Glyn has delayed his plan to pay shareholders a dividend for the first time since the bank’s 45.5 billion-pound bailout during the financial crisis. His bank has explored various options to divest the business, which he’s described as the most complex technological challenge in banking.

Williams & Glyn will probably be sold at a discount to its 1.3 billion pounds of equity, Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson said last month. Six years ago, Santander planned to buy the business, before its rebranding as Williams & Glyn, but walked away in 2012, citing completion delays.

For more on RBS’s struggles to divest Williams & Glyn, click here.

The business has attracted interest from several potential bidders, McEwan told reporters when the bank reported half-year earnings last month. RBS also said last month it would halt plans to launch Williams & Glyn as a standalone bank, after it spent about 1.4 billion pounds over seven years to prepare the unit for an initial public offering as an independent company. Scrapping that project will cost 200 million pounds more.

CYBG Plc, the owner of the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank brands spun off by National Australia Bank Ltd. this year, may be interested in buying Williams & Glyn, said one of the people. The challenger bank’s CEO, David Duffy, had said in an interview last week that the bank isn’t in any talks about acquisitions. When asked whether CYBG was interested in Williams & Glyn, he said “people do a lot of speculating based on what might be viable rather than what’s actually happening.”

Santander’s U.K. CEO, Nathan Bostock, a former finance director at RBS, has previously said his bank could consider British acquisitions with the approval of shareholders and regulators. Britain is Santander’s biggest contributor to earnings among its global markets.