NAB bank flags Clydesdale and Yorkshire sale in UK exit
National Australia Bank is considering floating its UK operations on the stock market as part of an exit from the UK.
NAB said it was looking at all options for the future of the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banking division.
The news came as the Melbourne-based bank announced a fall in profits, due mainly to problems at its UK operation.
Chief executive Andrew Thorburn said: "We have an intention to exit the UK... What we are signalling is that's our intent, it is an absolute priority."
Together, Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank have more than 320 branches. Earlier this year NAB announced a plan to close around 30 branches and invest £45m in its UK business.
Net profit at Australia's fourth largest bank was down 1.1% to A$5.3bn (£3bn), but cash earnings, which strip out volatile items, fell 9.8% to $5.18bn in the year to September.
Mr Thorburn told reporters: "While our Australia and New Zealand franchises are in good shape, it is disappointing to record a full year result that includes $1.5bn after tax in UK conduct provisions and other impairments.
"Our clear focus is on our Australian and New Zealand franchises. In relation to exiting UK banking, this means we are now examining a broader range of options including those provided by public markets," said Mr Thorburn, who took over NAB in August.
He has already announced plans to offload the group's US operation Great Western Bank via a stock market listing.
NAB also announced profit figures for Clydesdale and Yorkshire. Annual pre-tax earnings rose by 90% to £203m, helped by a 49% drop in bad debts to £80m.
Last month the bank said that redress for Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling would cost £420m for the financial year just ended. That was up from £75m announced in August.
Clydesdale is also having to set aside £250m to repay businesses which were mis-sold complex financial products intended to protect against interest rate volatility.
The company has also been hit by bad property loans.
NAB bought Scotland-based Clydesdale Bank in 1987 and Yorkshire Bank in 1990.
NAB paid £420m for Scotland-based Clydesdale Bank 1987 and around £900m for the Yorkshire business in 1990.
Market conditions may make a flotation unlikely in the short term. Both Virgin Money and Aldermore bank have postponed planned listings recently because of volatility on the stock market.