UPDATE 1-Blackstone quits race for RBS branches – source

* Joint suitors Blackstone and Wellcome pull bid – source

* Four bidders remain for 318 RBS branches

* Blackstone, RBS decline to comment

(Recasts with source comment, adds background, details)

LONDON, April 26 (BestGrowthStock) – Buyout firm Blackstone (BX.N: )
and the Wellcome Trust have dropped their joint bid for branches
being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ), leaving four
suitors in the race, a source familiar with the matter said.

Blackstone and Wellcome — a charitable foundation which
manages a 13 billion pound ($20 billion) investment portfolio —
took part in the first round of bids earlier this month for the
318 branches RBS is being forced to sell to comply with European
Union rules on state aid.

The joint suitors dropped out as the bank whittles down its
initial roster of potential buyers to a shortlist. It is
expected to do so as early as the start of May, but has not set
a specific deadline.

RBS, 83 percent state-owned after it was bailed out through
the financial crisis, is selling the branches under the revived
Williams & Glyn brand. The branches, which would provide a
foothold in banking for small and medium-sized companies, are
expected to fetch more than 1 billion pounds. [ID:nLDE63510D]

Bidders still in the race are Spanish lender Banco Santander
(SAN.MC: ), widely seen as the front runner, rival BBVA (BBVA.MC: ),
National Australia Bank (NAB.AX: ) and Virgin Money, part of
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

Blackstone and RBS declined to comment. The Wellcome Trust
was not immediately available for comment.

Investing Advice

(Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques, Simon Meads and Caroline
Copley; Editing by David Holmes)
($1=.6465 Pound)

UPDATE 1-Blackstone quits race for RBS branches – source