JPMorgan Nears Purchase of RBS Sempra Units for $1.7 Billion

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second- biggest U.S. lender, is close to an agreement to buy the non- U.S. units of RBS Sempra Commodities LLP for about $1.7 billion to expand its energy and metals trading units, according to two people briefed on the talks.

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The purchase may be announced as early as tomorrow, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc was forced to sell its stake in Sempra by the European Union after receiving a 45.5 billion-pound ($71 billion) taxpayer-funded bailout.

JPMorgan is continuing discussions with RBS and Sempra about acquiring the North American operations of the commodities and energy trader, one of the people said. Representatives for Edinburgh-based RBS, JPMorgan and Sempra declined to comment.

RBS bought a controlling stake in Sempra Commodities in April 2008 to benefit from rising investor interest in gold, oil and other raw materials. RBS invested $1.7 billion of equity into the venture, and Sempra Energy $1.6 billion. Sempra Energy received about $1.2 billion in cash from the 2008 transaction.

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JPMorgan has been expanding its commodities operations, buying Bear Stearns Cos.’ energy business in 2008 and UBS AG’s global agriculture and Canadian commodities divisions, a purchase it completed in 2009. The bank also bought U.K.-based ClimateCare, which helps clients reduce carbon emissions and trades reduction credits, in March 2008.

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