Virgin Money linked to Norwich and Peterborough buyout bid

Two East Anglian financial institutions could be about to join forces as part of a potential takeover deal.

Speculation is mounting that Norwich based Virgin Money is in talks to buy the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.

According to a national newspaper report both sides are in advanced talks about a possible buyout that could give Virgin access to the N&Ps network of 45 branches and 500,000 customer base.

Virgin Money has long held ambitions to move into High Street banking and a take over would sit well alongside its efforts to buy Northern Rock - giving it a high street presence across the country with around 100 branches.

Neither side would comment on the talks last night.

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But back in December N&P bosses confirmed that it had received a number of 'expressions of interest' from parties in connection with a possible merger or injection of new capital.

Yet Virgin is facing stiff competition to take over the N&P, which has been left reeling by the collapse of the Keydata Investment firm that threatened to leave hundreds of elderly investors out of pocket.

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Though N&P stepped in to mitigate any shortfalls for investors until potential compensation deals could be finalised, around 400 people have complained to the Financial Services Ombudsman that they were mis-sold investments.

If their complaint is upheld N&P, which has already had its credit rating downgraded, could be forced to pay out millions of pounds in compensation.

About 3,100 N&P customers are thought to have savings caught up in Keydata, which went into administration in 2009 and is now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. Most invested between �5,000 and �100,000.

It is thought that American private equity group JC Flowers, which last year took over similar sized mutual Kent Reliance, made an informal takeover approach of N&P last year.

Co-operative Financial Services, and rival building societies including Yorkshire, Coventry, Leeds and Principality are also believed to be eyeing a possible bid.

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