Virgin Money announces float plan

Branson Image copyright Getty Images

Virgin Money, the UK challenger bank part-owned by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, has announced plans to float shares on the London Stock Exchange.

It said it would raise about £150m.

It added that the share sale would support its plans for growth and further improve its ability to recruit and retain top staff.

Once the company is listed, it will pay £50m to the Treasury to settle what it still owes after buying Northern Rock plc in late 2011.

Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia said each employee would receive £1,000 worth of shares in the business when the flotation was completed later this month.

Ms Gadhia told the BBC's business editor, Kamal Ahmed, that she believed taxpayers had gained all their money back from the bailout of Northern Rock.

"In 2007, it looked like the taxpayer was going to make a big loss," she said. "Now this is the first bank properly out of the financial crisis.

"Debts to the taxpayer have in every sense been fully repaid. The taxpayer has got their money back."

Rock rescue

Sir Richard said: "This is a huge day for Virgin Money. We started this company 20 years ago with Jayne-Anne Gadhia when we set out to challenge the financial services industry.

"Our wonderful team have come a long way since then and have built a strong and valuable business offering great value products and services and a real challenge to the established players."

Image copyright PA

Analysis: Kamal Ahmed, business editor, BBC News

Virgin Money's announcement of its intention to sell a stake on the London Stock Exchange brings to an end another chapter in the sorry story of Northern Rock.

The functioning bits of the bank, which spectacularly collapsed in 2007 and was bailed out in February 2008 with £1.4bn of taxpayers' money, were bought by Sir Richard Branson and US investor WL Ross for £747m in 2011. With subsequent payments, that figure has risen to £1bn.

Further value is left in the "bad bit" of the bank, which was hived off under the UK Asset Resolution scheme, which is now returning profits to the Treasury.

So has the government got its money back? Probably, although it is very difficult to quantify the actual costs of the multiple bailouts, of which Northern Rock was only one.

Virgin Money has 75 branches throughout the UK and has 2.8 million customers.

It employs 2,800 people, of whom 1,800 work at its centre of operations in Gosforth.

In November 2011, Virgin Money bought the banking and mortgage lending arm of the old Northern Rock bank, which was bailed out by the Bank of England in the autumn of 2007 at the start of the international banking crisis.

Northern Rock was nationalised in early 2008 and then in 2010 it was split in two - Northern Rock plc and Northern Rock (Asset Management), into which was placed its bad debt.

Virgin Money's final £50m payment will take the amount it has paid the Treasury for Northern Rock to £1.02bn.

Last week, another UK challenger bank, Aldermore, announced its own plans to float this month, saying it hoped to raise £75m.

While Virgin Money is a retail-only bank, Aldermore, founded in May 2009, is a specialist bank that concentrates on lending to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as to homeowners.

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