By Marcus Leach

Reports in the Financial Times suggest that Richard Branson's Virgin Money are planning to bid for 600 Lloyds branches in a bid to grow his company's high street image.

The paper reports that Branson met with Lloyds CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio earlier this week with a formal bid expected to be tabled in July.

"This can happen quickly and smoothly," Branson told the paper. "We are a serious bidder and can give the government what it wants through competition."

Should Branson be successful with his bid it will make Virgin Money the sixth largest bank in the UK, although Independent Commission on Banking has recommended forcing Lloyds to dispose of more branches under state aid rules.

"We appreciate what the commission is saying but we don’t want to delay the process," said Branson. "We think we can build a formidable competitor with 600 and would almost rather they didn’t muddy the water."

It is understood that Virgin Money has approached financial institutions and private equity companies about raising £3 billion in capital to fund the purchase of the branches.