Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is a step closer to offloading its ship finance assets. Sky News is reporting that RBS has appointed bankers at Lazard to offload the bank’s £3bn of shipping loans, the majority of which are with Greek owners.
RBS has been trying to sell its ship finance division since the middle of last year, and had originally set a December 2015 timeline for the sale. Now it has putting in a renewed effort to sell. It is the latest reorgnaisation of the bank since its £45.5bn bail-out by UK taxpayers in 2008.
Sources tell Sky News Lazard is working on selling less than half of RBS’s estimated £8bn in shipping loans.
An RBS spokesman told Sky News: “RBS Shipping is a strong franchise with one of the most significant portfolios in European finance. In light of our wider strategy to create a simpler, stronger, and more sustainable bank, better aligned to the needs of our customers in the UK and Western Europe, we are actively exploring alternative strategic options for our shipping business.”
RBS quitting ship finance was criticised by Splash columnists Dagfinn Lunde and Clay Maitland when the news first broke last year.
Describing RBS as “one of the most dominant ship finance franchises in banking history”, Maitland said RBS’s decision to exit the sector would have “profound implications” for shipping, leaving maritime finance “in the hands of venture capitalists, investment bankers and big bets”.
Lunde, meanwhile, warned that RBS quitting shipping means “London is completely disappearing from traditional ship finance”.