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Online bank Egg more than doubled its losses compared to last year and blamed poor business in France.

Good profits for the UK business - £72.8m in the UK, were eaten up by losses of £89.1m in France. Overall, the bank lost £34.4m compared to a loss of £16.6m in 2002. It now hopes to break even by 2005. Egg added 635,000 new customers last year and now has three million customers in total.

Paul Gratton, CEO at Egg, said: "In the UK Egg has had a phenomenal year....However, in France the underlying business performance has been very disappointing."

Prudential Insurance, which owns 79 per cent of the online bank, is keen to sell the business. MBNA and Alliance & Leicester are the favourites to buy Egg - worth up to £1.6bn - according to the FT. RBS, an early front runner, is understood to have lost interest, following a disagreement with Egg over price. ®

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