Virgin Money, JC Flowers eyeing RBS' branches: reports

Richard Branson's Virgin Money Holdings (UK) Ltd has approached Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in a bid to acquire 316 of its branches, even as US investor JC Flowers & Co is considering a bid, Bloomberg reported citing people with knowledge of the matter as saying.

The discussions comes after Banco Santander, Spain's biggest lender, dropped its £1.7-billion purchase plan last week.

According to the people, the new plans were at an early stage and no decision had been taken on whether to table a formal offer. The people requested not to be named as the talks were private.

RBS, Britain's biggest government-owned bank, needs to sell the branches by 2014 to comply with a EU state-aid ruling after receiving  £45.5 billion in the biggest banking bailout in the world in 2008 and 2009.

Virgin Money agreed to  the acquisition of Northern Rock Plc in November for a £747 million and relocated its headquarters to the mortagage lender's base, Newcastle, England (See: UK government under fire for selling Northern Rock "for a song" to Branson).

RBS, Britain's biggest government-owned bank, may approach the European Commission to seek an extension of the deadline one of the people said.