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Who dares wins

Acquirer: Royal Bank of ScotlandDeal: acquisition of NatWestAmount: £21 billionDate: February 2000Advisers to RBS: Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs

The sheer audacity of Royal Bank of Scotland's acquisition of a bank three times its size sets it apart from other M&A deals in 2000.

Matthew Greenburgh, co-head of the financial institutions group at Merrill Lynch, which with Goldman Sachs put the deal together, says: "Here was a company bidding for another three times its size and they put into the bid in cash, in one form or another, almost their own market capitalization. In a regulated sector like the banking industry that is unique."

When Sir David Rowland, NatWest's chairman, finally conceded defeat last February, it sealed a fascinating chapter in the history of UK banking.

The story, as least in the public eye, began when NatWest's attempt to buy life assurance company Legal&General collapsed in the summer of 1999. That was all the encouragement Bank of Scotland needed to step in with a hostile bid for the beleaguered bank, followed closely by Edinburgh neighbour Royal Bank of Scotland.

In fact RBS had already been looking at NatWest, as Greenburgh recalls. "RBS had been eyeing UK consolidation for some time and had looked at Barclays originally but soon shifted its sights to NatWest.

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