A trio of banks stalking Dutch takeover target ABN Amro could be prepared to launch a hostile bid if friendly merger talks fail, according to reports.
Dutch regulators say they do not oppose the break up of ABN Amro
The consortium of Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Spain's Santander and Belgium's Fortis unveiled their interest in acquiring ABN on Friday.
The move comes as Britain's Barclays Bank tries to capitalise on exclusive negotiations to buy the Dutch bank.
Barclays has until Wednesday to hammer out the terms of any takeover deal.
The UK's third-largest bank is thought to be prepared to offer up to 35 euros (£24; $47) a share for ABN, and has offered to move the combined company's headquarters to the Netherlands in an attempt to appease Dutch critics.
However, analysts say the RBS consortium could be able to afford up to 40 euros a share for ABN, most likely taking the Dutch bank out of Barclays' reach.
The three-bank consortium invited ABN to the negotiating table on Friday, saying it wished to secure an agreed deal for the Dutch bank.
However, Reuters news agency and The Observer newspaper reported that the consortium could be willing to make a hostile bid for ABN if friendly talks fail.
Barclays revealed last month that it was in exclusive talks with ABN about merging to create a bank worth as much as £80bn.
Under the terms of an agreed negotiating deadline, the UK bank has until the end of Tuesday to announce whether or not it plans to go ahead with a full takeover of ABN.
Analysts have said failure to secure a successful offer could expose Barclays itself to a takeover bid, possibly from a larger US rival.
Dutch regulators last week said they would not object in principle to a foreign bank trying to buy ABN, even if it planned to break it up and sell the parts.
It is understood that a successful bid by the RBS consortium would result in the break up ABN, with the Dutch bank's US operations and much of its wholesale banking business going to RBS.