U.S. private equity group Centerbridge and London-based Anacap are among the bidders in late-stage talks to buy one of Spain's smaller nationalized lenders, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
The two firms are in a consortium, and one other U.S. buyout group is also in the running to buy EVO Banco, a subsidiary of state-rescued NCG Banco, the newspaper said on its website, citing people close to the talks.
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NCG Banco declined to comment on the bidders. A spokesman said that NCG Banco was likely to decide on the sale of EVO - its network of some 80 branches outside the northern regions of Galicia, Asturias and Leon where it is rooted - this month.
Five bidders earlier tabled non-binding offers for the unit, and binding bids were now in, the spokesman said.
NCG Banco, the larger parent group, is itself likely to come up for auction in the coming weeks, which will be a bigger test of the state's ability to get rescued lenders off its hands.
While no foreign investors have yet bought into the networks of bailed-out Spanish lenders in the wake of a 2008 property crash, which last year triggered a European rescue of the weakest banks, such funds have been snapping up other assets.
Centerbridge bought a debt servicing unit, specialized in recovering money from borrowers struggling with loans, from lender Banesto in 2012. Anacap is among investors that have bought Spanish portfolios of troubled consumer loans.
(Reporting by Sarah White, Editing by David Evans)