ABBEY has confirmed that talks are at an advanced stage for the sale of a business providing mortgages to Britons moving to France.

The group, currently the subject of a takeover bid by Spanish bank Santander Central Hispano, is discussing the potential sale of Abbey National France with financial services group BNP Paribas.

The Abbey operation, which has about 26,000 customers and assets of £1.39bn, draws about a quarter of its business from Britons purchasing residential properties in France.

However, Abbey has been trying to sell the subsidiary as part of its drive to create a company solely focused on UK personal financial services. Abbey said it hoped to complete the sale of Abbey National France in October, although the deal required regulatory and other approvals.