Abbey National PLC, the fifth-largest banking company in Britain, plans to establish a wholesale banking presence in the United States.

Abbey National Treasury Services plans to open an office in Stamford, Conn., to focus on wholesale banking and treasury services, provided it wins approval from U.S. regulators, a spokesman told American Banker on Friday. He said approval is expected in the “not too distant future.”

In Britain, Abbey National Treasury Services offers a slew of products, including wholesale lending, asset financing, asset-based investments, and securities financing, as well as capital, liquidity, and risk management. Last year wholesale banking produced $834.5 million, or 29%, of the company’s overall pretax profit, according to financial statements.

The company plans to roll out most of these offerings in the U.S. market over three to four years. However, it is likely to start off slowly, the spokesman said.

Abbey National established a regional wholesale banking office in Hong Kong last year but has no plan to go elsewhere outside Asia and the United States, he said.

And though the company has a big foothold in the British retail market, where it is a leading mortgage lender, there is no plan to establish a retail presence here, the spokesman said.

Abbey National has been in the news lately for another reason. It is in merger talks with Bank of Scotland and has been fighting off a hostile bid from Lloyds TSB Group PLC, the fourth-largest banking company in Britain.

Abbey National rejected Lloyds’ first and second acquisition offers in December as too low, prompting Lloyds to contact Abbey National shareholders in an effort to persuade them to push Abbey’s board into negotiations. Eventually, moreover, Lloyds sought clearance from the government to take over Abbey National.

The British Department of Trade and Industry, which has been reviewing the merger proposal, indicated Friday that a merger might hinder competition. But the department has passed the final decision to the Competition Commission, which has set a June deadline for its ruling.

Abbey National’s spokesman would not speculate about what would happen to the company’s U.S. expansion plan if the government gives Lloyds approval to buy Abbey. He said the company is doing business as usual.

Meanwhile, the spokesman said it is unclear how many people Abbey National would hire for the Connecticut office. It will probably start small and grow over time, he said.

The company is expected to occupy a 17,580-square-foot space in Stamford by June, once the office is remodeled to fit Abbey’s needs, according to the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield of Connecticut Inc., which helped negotiate the property deal.

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