The bank will announce its annual results just when it is expected to participate in the takeover and merger mania now characterising Britain's financial institutions. The bank, of course, has been no stranger to the merger scene this year. In May it was discussing an informal merger with Halifax. This would have created the country's third largest financial group after Lloyds TSB and HSBC. The deal foundered when Royal Bank rejected Halifax's conditions. Now, the talk is of a hostile bid for NatWest. An indication of Royal Bank's intention is that it has already asked the Office of Fair Trading whether any bid would go to the Competition Commission. Next Friday is the deadline for Royal Bank to decide whether it will go for NatWest. The previous day it will have published its results. A bid would really hot up the battle of the banks. NatWest has already spurned a £22bn pitch by the Bank of Scotland, and Royal Bank is rumoured to be ready to offer between £15 and £16 a share, producing a £26bn bid. The annual results could be an influence. Will they maintain the progress of last year when a £1bn profit on income of £3.6bn was recorded? And will attention be paid to City analyst Terry Smith's accusation that Royal Bank has used 'racy' accounting to flatter its profits? The bank, of course, maintains it has followed best practice.
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