LONDON — Lloyds Banking Group PLC Monday said it has received "six credible proposals" for its retail branch network but is also considering an initial public offering.

"It has always been our intention to run a dual track process and an IPO remains an option," a bank spokeswoman said.

The comment follows weekend press reports that the bank had received just two formal offers for the business by a July 12 deadline. NBNK Investments PLC, a bank buyout vehicle led by Peter Levene, and The Co-operative Bank submitted bids.

Other potential buyers include National Australia Bank Ltd., which already owns Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks, and Virgin Money which continues to monitor the situation but is more interested in pursuing a bid for nationalized lender Northern Rock PLC.

Insurance entrepreneur Clive Cowdery and the acquisition vehicle he founded, Resolution Ltd., and Bank of China Ltd., have also expressed interest, according to press reports.

The business being sold includes Lloyds' 632 Cheltenham & Gloucester and Lloyds TSB branches and customer accounts, the TSB brand and Intelligent Finance brand, customers and accounts.

Analysts have valued the portfolio at GBP2.6 billion but there is concern among bidders about the GBP30 billion funding gap between the bank's customer loans and deposits. In order to address this Lloyds has arranged for its advising banks to provide between GBP15 billion and GBP20 billion vendor finance for the deal. The bank expects mortgage repayments to reduce the remaining GBP10 billion gap.

The bank would also consider reducing the number of assets being sold if this was necessary to complete a deal, people said. However the extent to which Lloyds could cut the size of the package is likely to be limited by the terms of the disposal, which has been forced on the bank by the European Union in return for receiving billions of pounds of state aid in the wake of the financial crisis.

The bank, which is 41%-owned by the taxpayer, doesn't need to make the sale until November 2013, but the bank's new chief executive, Antonio Horta-Osorio, flagged an accelerated sale of the network March 1 as he started in his new position.

"We want to find a buyer or have made a decision on an IPO by the end of the year," the spokeswoman said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are running the auction process.

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