Britain’s Metro Bank decides not to sell mortgage book

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s Metro Bank said on Friday it had abandoned its planned sale of a 3 billion pound ($3.8 billion) mortgage portfolio, citing market conditions.

The bank began exploring the potential sale in October, as part of urgent moves to bolster its balance sheet that led to a 925 million pound rescue package.

Metro said on Friday that this refinancing, which was backed by Colombian billionaire Jaime Gilinski, had given it renewed balance sheet strength.

“Given the prevailing market environment, it is in the best interests of shareholders to retain the existing loan portfolio,” it said in a statement.

Metro announced a cost reduction plan in November that could see it lay off 20% of its workforce and axe some of its biggest customer benefits, including seven-day opening hours.

Sky News reported last month that Barclays was in exclusive talks to buy the mortgage book. Other potential contenders had included Spain’s Santander.

($1 = 0.7868 pounds)

(Reporting by Sri Hari N S and Prerna Bedi in Bengaluru and Iain Withers in London; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Alexander Smith)