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Branson and Ross may team up on Northern Rock

Source: Reuters - Fri 15th Jan 2010

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross on Thursday said he was "quite possibly" interested in teaming up with Richard Branson's Virgin Money to bid for government-owned bank Northern Rock.

Ross said that Virgin Money's recent acquisition of a small provincial bank would help in the process.

"I like the Virgin Money model" Ross said in an interview with Reuters Insider. "It's one of the most respected names in the UK in financial services. They just recently got permission to buy a banking licence - they actually bought a little tiny bank. They are now in the banking business, or will be shortly, in the UK. So that's a useful step towards doing something substantial."

Ross was part of a group led by Virgin that bid for Northern Rock in 2008. The bank was Britain's first victim of the global banking crisis and ended up being nationalized.

Ross, chairman and chief executive of private equity and turnaround firm WL Ross & Co, said the firm's latest fund was around 60 percent invested, and he expects it to be fully invested long before the end of the year.

Ross also said that he was not considering buying American International Group's mortgage insurance unit, United Guaranty.

"It is certainly the case that we're not buying the division" Ross said. "We do think the mortgage insurance space is an interesting one and we hope to be in it at some point, but we have no transaction right now."

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