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RBS short-lists DBS, Sarasin others for Coutts Intl sale: sources

[ZURICH] J Safra Sarasin and a consortium comprising Singapore's DBS Group Holdings are among banks shortlisted for the second round sale process of Coutts International, people familiar with the matter said.

The sale of the private bank of Royal Bank of Scotland has attracted about 10 suitors in the initial round, and could fetch about US$1 billion, Reuters previously reported. No firm date has been set for the final bids, the people added, but all the shortlisted parties have commenced due diligence.

DBS, which is mainly interested in the Asian unit of Coutts, has teamed up with French bank Societe Generale which could buy the European business, they said.

Julius Baer and South Africa's Investec Ltd have also made it to the next round, they said, while a one person said Credit Suisse was also among the bidders shortlisted.

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Spokespeople for DBS, Sarasin Credit Suisse, Investec, Societe Generale and Julius Baer declined to comment.

Coutts was founded in the 18th century and is best known as banker to Queen Elizabeth. Under the proposed restructure, Coutts could be split into two businesses - one based in Britain and one in Zurich from where it runs operations in Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Around a third of the nearly US$36 billion in assets managed by the bank comes from Asia, Reuters previously reported.

In 2013, Coutts International's operating profit stood at 103 million swiss francs (US$101 million) when stripping out costs to cover the US tax crackdown, closure of a branch in Berne, Switzerland and for bad loans granted in Asia.

RBS's preference is to sell the business as one entity as opposed to breaking into European and Asia bits. The sale comes as RBS, which is majority owned by the UK government, is retreating from sub-scale businesses and markets.