Northern Rock is to be sold off by the end of the year under a fast-track government plan to start clawing back some of the hundreds of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money ploughed into the banking sector.

Advisers at Credit Suisse have started to draw up the sale plan, which is linked to moves to split the nationalised bank in two.

Potential buyers, including Virgin Money, National Australia Bank and Santander have been sounded out on a possible deal. The private-equity giants Blackstone and Towerbrook are also thought to be examining the opportunity.

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