By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
The Anglo-South African financial services group Investec has joined a cluster of international banks eyeing bids for the international arm of Coutts, the wealth manager whose customers include Her Majesty The Queen.
Sky News understands that Investec is among at least half a dozen parties to have expressed interest in buying Coutts International, which has been put up for sale by its owner, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
Coutts International is expected to change hands during the course of 2015, having been identified as non-core by Ross McEwan, RBS’ chief executive.
The sale will form part of a wider retrenchment from the global empire-building which became the hallmark of Fred Goodwin, the former RBS boss who took the Coutts brand to mainland China in an attempt to tap demand from the country’s fast-growing middle classes.
It is unclear exactly how much the Coutts International business is worth, although analysts have speculated that it could fetch between £500m and £650m.
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A sale will not include a licence to use the famous wealth management brand, which will remain attached to Coutts’ UK operations.
RBS is retaining the domestic franchise, which is among the world’s oldest private banks, with a heritage dating back to the late 17th century.
Investec, which is understood to have hired advisers to help it plot a takeover, has been expanding its wealth management activities rapidly in recent years, with profits rising sharply as a result.
It will face stiff competition for the Coutts International unit, however.
The Singaporean bank DBS and French lender Societe Generale are in talks to team up to buy the business and carve it up along geographical lines.
Other bidders are said to include Intesa Sanpaolo, the Italian bank, Brazil’s BTG Pactual, and Julius Baer, the Swiss private bank.
Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, is overseeing the auction.
Investec and RBS declined to comment.