Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Saturday, 1 November 2008

Mystery firm 'may bid' for HBOS

The government has been pushing for the merger to go ahead

A possible new bidder has emerged for Halifax Bank of Scotland.

Scots entrepreneur Jim Spowart believes a European financial services company is interested in taking over the troubled bank.

No detail about the new bid nor the identity of the foreign bank has been given but the interest is "genuine", according to Mr Spowart.

The news comes a day after the UK Government gave Lloyds TSB's planned merger with HBOS the green light.

Mr Spowart is meeting Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy to discuss the possibility of a second bid for the troubled bank.

'Early stage'

Mr Spowart said the possible new bid, if successful, would "keep decision making in Scotland".

Mr Murphy added: "I have spoken to the Treasury and if there is a second serious bid then they would be happy to talk to them."

BBC Scotland's Business and Economy Editor Douglas Fraser said developments were still at an early stage, but he added that the unnamed bidder had been attracted by the low stock market valuation of Britain's biggest mortgage lender, which could give it a foothold in the UK market.

He added that the UK Government - which has been pushing for the Lloyds TSB merger to go ahead - stressed that it will remain neutral if this alternative bid develops, leaving the decision to shareholders.

In a statement, HBOS said: "We do not comment on market rumours. We have a recommended deal with Lloyds TSB which brings certainty for our shareholders."

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