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15-07-2012 15:53:00

Private Equity Consortia Mull Bids For Direct Line - Report

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LONDON--Two private equity consortia are planning to bid for Direct Line, owned by Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS.LN), in a move that would scupper a planned flotation of the giant insurer later this year, The Sunday Times reported, citing unnamed sources.

U.S. buyout giants Blackstone Group (BX) and Bain Capital (BCI.XX) are assembling a pre-emptive bid due at the end of the month that would derail the flotation, which is seen in September.

Another group, comprising Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Apax, and BC Partners, is also putting together a rival offer, the newspaper added.

Direct Line is the U.K.'s biggest car insurer by number of policies, and a leading provider of home insurance. Its brands include Churchill and Green Flag, the car breakdown service, the newspaper said.

European regulators ordered RBS to sell its insurance arm as a condition of a government bailout four years ago. RBS, which is 84% owned by the British taxpayer, received GBP45 billion to save it from collapse, the newspaper said.

The disposal will help restore RBS's finances, which need to be strengthened before the government can sell shares, it added.

RBS put Direct Line up for sale in 2008 after several unsolicited approaches, it said, but bidders fell short of the asking price.

RBS has appointed 11 investment banks to handle the offer, under which it is expected to sell 30% of the company to investors.

The roster of advisers is led by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS, with support from Bank of AmericaMerrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, Citi, Commerzbank, HSBC, Investec, KBW and Royal Bank of Canada.

Blackstone, Bain and KKR were immediately unavailable for comment. Apax declined to comment.

Newspaper Web site: http://www.timesonline.co.uk

-London Bureau, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9320

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 15, 2012 09:53 ET (13:53 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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