National Westminster Bank Group's U.S. bank is struggling with a mountain of bad real estate loans, but after only two marginally profitable quarters, it is ready to do deals.

In an employee newsletter last month, the U.S. bank's chairman and chief executive, John Tugwell, said NatWest is on the verge of a deal to buy branch offices in New York and New Jersey. "We have, in fact, signed the letter of intent signifying that we...are seriously pursuing this transaction,"he wrote.

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