Bank of America has put its UK and Ireland credit card business up for sale, putting a question mark over Chester's largest private sector employer, with 4,000 staff.
The embattled US bank said on Monday it had agreed to sell its Canadian credit card business for about $8.5bn to TD Bank and hoped to shore up cash further by selling its European credit card business.
Cllr Mike Jones, Conservative leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council, issued a statement on Monday evening. He said: "MBNA has been a wonderful friend and true partner to both Chester and this authority, backing a host of cultural, sporting and community events. Whoever buys their business will certainly have a hard act to follow and we must hope that they will be willing to make the same massive contribution to our local community. It is a profitable business operating out of high-quality accommodation with cutting edge technology – an attractive proposition for investment."
Steve Robinson, the council's chief executive, added in the same statement: "We will be extremely sad to lose this company, which has become a real part of Chester since it arrived 18 years ago. It will surely be remembered for a long time for the leading role it has played in the life of the city.
"We are, of course, are prepared to do everything possible to welcome the new owners and support them to maintain current levels of employment."
MBNA is based on Chester Business Park, across the River Dee from Chester city centre. BofA acquired MBNA in 2006 but has come under pressure lately from investors worried that it does not have the capital to cover mortgage-related losses and litigation following the recession.