Bank of Scotland Ireland's business bank is expected to become an acquisition target after the group closes its Halifax retail bank with the loss of 750 jobs. The lender has played down the possibility that the business bank may be sold but it is expected to draw some interest.

"In any commercial organisation, particularly a plc, everything is for sale at the right price. We have a clear plan for taking the bank forward, but will be opportunistic," BOSI chief executive Joe Higgins said.

He insisted that BOSI's business bank, which has about 8% of the SME market, remains a "very significant operation" and is "not in play". He said BOSI made a decision not just to close its retail bank, but to support the business bank. However he would not rule out a sale.

Market rumours suggested HSBC might show some interest in the remaining rump of the business, including its mortgage book, but it is understood to be keen on expanding organically in Ireland instead. HSBC's Irish operations concentrate on corporate lending and it does not want exposure to the property market here.

Irish Life & Permanent had also been linked to a possible bid for part of the retail bank and is said by sources to previously have been in talks with the bank.

The plan to close Halifax was first revealed in the Sunday Tribune. This newspaper also understands that the bank has future commitments under the leases of its 44 branches of about €30m. The average term before a break option on each branch is eight years, with a further year's rent payable if the options are exercised. The average rent per branch is believed to be at least €80,000, suggesting that unless the bank can sublease the shops it faces a bill of €31.7m.

Meanwhile, sources familiar with the business bank said a deal was unlikely to happen for months, but eventually suitors would emerge looking for assets at a discount. A US private equity buyer completed due diligence on BOSI last summer, according to sources, before backing away at the last minute. Last October BOSI ruled out any deals with Asset Resolution Corporation, a work-out vehicle run by former chief executive Mark Duffy, but since then ARC has concluded no other deals. Duffy declined to comment last week on whether he would be interested in buying parts of the business.

"We'll spend the next few years with guys knocking on our door. It's a commercial reality," Higgins said.

Ratings agency Moody's said last week that it would not downgrade BOSI's securitised mortgage book because it has the direct support of the parent group.

Separately the Sunday Tribune has learned that Bank of Scotland, a shareholder in Green Property, is not part of the developer's workout division. Green has app­roached banks looking to asset manage their properties. Instead, that division is owned by management of the company.