State-backed Royal Bank of Scotland looks set to enter the latest phase of its long and painful hoped-for journey back to the private sector with the results of a Government-commissioned report on whether to hive off its "bad" assets.
RBS, 81% owned by the taxpayer after its rescue during the financial crisis, publishes third quarter results on Friday amid speculation that a decision on the good bank/bad bank split could be imminent.
Investment bank Rothschild has been commissioned to set out the merits and pitfalls of separating out operations such as its Ulster Bank subsidiary, and billions in non-core loans, in order to accelerate the privatisation of the remaining good parts.
Chancellor George Osborne recently told the Daily Telegraph that the future of RBS would be a priority for the next few weeks and that the status quo was not an option.
Reports this weekend suggested that proposals would stop short of the most radical split option, instead forcing the group to commit to a more rapid run-down of about £50 billion of problem loans.
Proponents of a split argue that hiving off the bad debts could free up the good parts of the group to lend more to business and boost the economy.
But some investors fear a complete separation could trigger capital losses of up to £15 billion while also depriving RBS of the chance to benefit from an improved outlook for the bad assets, especially in UK commercial property loans.
It appears shareholders would have to capitalise the new entity, since Mr Osborne has said taxpayers will put no more money into RBS.
The Chancellor would face the hurdle of persuading these investors to accept his proposals. Other potential stumbling blocks could include EU rules on state aid as well as controversy over the future of Ulster Bank.
It is feared that ditching the business, which has suffered after Ireland's property bubble burst, would potentially leave a major hole in Northern Ireland's economy.
Numis analyst Mike Trippitt said the argument that the non-core or less profitable parts of RBS had impeded its lending capability was not convincing - while there were also reservations about the timing of the split, years after the bank was rescued.
"Historic precedent suggests the optimal benefit from a good/bad bank split is attained before bad becomes very bad," he said.
"The good bank and its shareholders are isolated from further deterioration, and bad-bank management can implement the work-out with a longer-term view, in a more considered way. We are clearly long past that optimal point."
However, despite the potential difficulties involved, the probability of it taking place could be higher than currently assumed by the market, he said.
Ministers are said to be weighing up three potential models for dealing with RBS's toxic assets.
The first would be setting up a bad bank inside the group, run by an independent team. An alternative would be to create a separate bad bank with the support of the central bank.
A third option would be to establish an entirely separate taxpayer-backed bad bank, with the loans run down over a decade or more.
Advisers have reportedly identified £50-£60 billion of assets that would be included.
The outcome of the review will mark the latest phase of RBS's turbulent recent history, as it adapts to life under new chief executive Ross McEwan, after the departure of predecessor Stephen Hester.
Mr Hester had taken over at the bank in November 2008 in the midst of a calamitous period which saw it rescued by the Government.
Its collapse followed the disastrous 2007 takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro in a £49 billion deal that weakened its capital position and left it highly vulnerable to the looming credit crunch.
Mr Hester was parachuted in to put the bank back on an even keel. Tens of thousands of job cuts followed while non-core assets worth more than £200 billion including a chain of 900 pubs and an aircraft leasing business were sold off.
RBS also began to sell off insurer Direct Line. Last month it announced a £600 million deal to hive off 314 bank branches under the revived Williams & Glyn's brand to a consortium including the Church of England's investment arm.
As Mr Hester's successor was unveiled in August, the bank announced it had swung out of the red with half-year pre-tax profits of £1.4 billion.