Virgin Money Discusses Northern Rock Bid with Blackstone

LONDON (Reuters) – British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Money has approached U.S. private equity firm Blackstone (BX.N) to seek backing for a new bid for the state-owned British bank Northern Rock, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.

Virgin has held talks with Blackstone and other companies during its search for a partner to help it to move into UK financial services, the newspaper reported.

Blackstone’s interest in a move for Northern Rock will depend on it working with a trade partner with the right operational understanding of running a bank, the report cited an unnamed source close to Blackstone as saying.

Branson’s Virgin Money last week bought a small provincial bank with the licence needed to sell savings and home loan products in Britain. 

Branson, Britain’s 32nd richest person with an estimated fortune of 1.2 billion pounds according to a newspaper rich list, has said he wants to enter Britain’s banking sector.

Virgin has already made one failed bid for Northern Rock, Britain’s first victim of the global banking crisis.

No one at Virgin could immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing Bernard Orr)