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Blackstone, Wellcome Bid for RBS Branches

LONDON (Reuters) – Buyout firm Blackstone (BX.N) and charity the Wellcome Trust have launched a joint bid for bank branches being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The bid from Blackstone and the Wellcome Trust, a British charitable foundation which manages a 13 billion pound ($19.88 billion) investment portfolio, brings the total number of offers for the RBS branches to five.

RBS declined to comment, while Blackstone and the Wellcome Trust could not immediately be reached.

RBS, 84 percent government-owned after receiving a taxpayer-funded capital injection at the height of the banking crisis, is selling 318 of its branches so that the bailout complies with European Union state aid rules.

The branches are being sold under the revived Williams & Glyn brand, and are expected to fetch more than 1 billion pounds.

RBS shares were 1.45 percent higher at 44.6 pence by 1225 GMT, while the FTSE 100 share index was up 0.8 percent.

The other bidders for the RBS branches are Spanish lenders Banco Santander (SAN.MC) and BBVA (BBVA.MC), National Australia Bank (NAB.AX) and Virgin Money, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. ($1=.6539 Pound)

(Reporting by Myles Neligan; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)