Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

Financier 'discouraged' from bid

HBOS flag
UK ministers said there was still only one offer for HBOS

The financier behind a move to find another bidder to take over HBOS has claimed he was discouraged by the UK Government from finding an alternative.

Jim Spowart, who founded the bank Intelligent Finance, told BBC Scotland he had now given up on his efforts.

However, the UK Government has pointed out that the 12bn offer by Lloyds TSB to take over HBOS was the only one on the table.

UK ministers added that any alternative bid would be treated fairly.

Mr Spowart, who had been acting on behalf of another, unidentified, possible bidder for HBOS, said he had come to the conclusion that no alternative bid would be encouraged.

What's the alternative? We don't know
Lord Foulkes
Labour MSP

"I don't think it's an even playing field, that's what we've discovered," he told BBC Scotland's Politics Show.

Mr Spowart explained: "I was approached a few weeks ago by a merchant bank who was representing a foreign bank who had made approaches to the Secretary of State for Scotland (Jim Murphy).

"I also had discussions with a Treasury official at that time, as did the merchant banker, and we weren't encouraged at all, I may say. I think we were discouraged."

Mr Spowart also said he was "annoyed and very unhappy" that, after being given an assurance from Mr Murphy about the fair treatment of alternative bids, he received a call about it three hours later from a journalist, adding: "These things in the commercial arena should be kept confidential."

BBC business editor Robert Peston reported that the Bank of China hoped to make a bid for HBOS, which Mr Spowart declined to confirm was the one he was involved with.

However, Robert Peston pointed out that, if Mr Spowart and Bank of China were anywhere near to making a formal offer, they would have been forced to make a statement to that effect.

Labour MSP Lord Foulkes told BBC Scotland that the offer from Lloyds TSB was "real".

He went on: "What's the alternative? We don't know. Is it the Bank of China, is it the Middle East? We don't know anything about it whatsoever."

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