Co-operative Bank hires bankers to spearhead renewed bid for consolidation

The Co-operative Bank has hired a leading firm of City advisers to spearhead its attempt to consolidate Britain’s mid-sized banking market.

Sky News has learnt that the lender, which has twice come close to collapse during the last decade, has appointed PJT Partners to help scrutinise potential takeover targets.

Sources said that PJT’s role would also include advising on the financing requirements for any substantial deals, with analysts continuing to predict a string of mergers in the sector.

The appointment of PJT comes within months of the Co-operative Bank having a £1bn takeover bid for TSB rejected by its owner, the Spanish group Sabadell.

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PJT was also an adviser to the former mutually owned lender on its most recent restructuring nearly five years ago, although its new mandate is understood to have only been agreed in recent weeks.


News of the Co-operative Bank’s renewed bid to explore consolidation options comes the day before it reports annual results that are expected to show a continued improvement in its performance.

Its approach to buy TSB would have created a business with 8m customers in areas such as mortgage lending, current accounts and savings products, and given it greater scale at a time when rising interest rates are boosting banks’ profitability.

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By customer numbers, the business would have been larger than Virgin Money, which has approximately 6.5m customers, although the enlarged group would still have been far smaller than high street giants such as Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest Group.

Another wave of mergers and takeovers in the industry is seen as inevitable following deals such as the combination of OneSavings Bank with Charter Court Financial Services, and Virgin Money’s tie-up with CYBG.

In 2013, the Co-operative Bank’s bid to acquire the branch network which became TSB was left in ruins when the scale of its own financial crisis emerged.

The Co-operative Bank, which at the time was majority-owned by the Co-op Group, one of the UK’s biggest mutuals, was forced to turn to American hedge funds to secure a £1.5bn rescue.

Its former chairman, Paul Flowers, was left humiliated by tabloid revelations about his private life, and prompted an overhaul of its leadership and ownership structure.

The ensuing period brought further turbulence for the Co-operative Bank, however, with needing a further bailout by investors in 2017.

The lender has itself been on the receiving end of takeover interest, although talks about a sale to Cerberus Capital Management, an often controversial investor, broke down in December 2020.

In April last year, two major investors – Bain Capital Credit and JC Flowers – took a 10% stake in the Co-operative Bank, which some analysts interpreted as a sign that it would become more proactive in its approach to industry consolidation.

The company’s chief executive, Nick Slape, has overseen efforts to issue £200m of loss-absorbing capital, underlining its return towards a more stable capital structure.

The Co-operative Bank declined to comment.