(Adds details, quotes from CEO)
By Rahul B and Esha Vaish
Feb 28 British bank Virgin Money would
look at buying assets from up-for-sale Co-operative Bank
, its head said on Tuesday, after the group reported
operating profit rose by a third last year.
Rescued from the brink of collapse by a group of hedge funds
in 2013, Britain's Co-op bank is seeking a buyer after
struggling to meet regulatory capital requirements. Its purchase
would add four million customers to any bank's books.
"The bank has not approached anybody in Co-Op Bank yet,...
but at some point we will look at this strategic opportunity,"
Virgin Money Chief Executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia told Reuters.
She did not specify whether Virgin Money would want to buy
the whole business or seek to cherry pick certain assets.
Virgin Money on Tuesday highlighted resilient demand from
borrowers following Britain's vote to leave the European Union,
and Gadhia said the bank had not tightened any lending criteria.
Its underlying pretax profit rose to 213.3 million pounds
($265.1 million) in 2016, up from 160.7 million pounds the
Gross mortgage lending rose 12 percent to 8.4 billion pounds
in the year, giving the so-called challenger bank a 3.4 percent
share of a UK mortgage market dominated by larger players.
Shares in the company rose 0.6 percent to 335.5 pence at
However, the lender's impairment charges increased to 37.6
million pounds from 30.3 million, with most of the rise coming
in its credit card business, which the firm attributed to a jump
in its credit card lending by 55 percent to 2.4 billion pounds.
The bank, which listed on London's main market in 2014,
said, it was sufficiently nimble to adjust to changes in the
operating environment as timing and nature of Britain's exit
from the EU remains unclear.
The lender said it added more than 35,000 customers per
month to its books, mainly through its digital channels. Over 82
percent of its sales were through digital channels.
However, Gadhia said that the bank was committed to
maintaining its existing branch network.
($1 = 0.8047 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Justin G Varghese and Noor Zainab
Hussain in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely/Keith Weir)