LONDON - Helios Investment Partners has been working with advisers to sell a stake in Crown Agents Bank, a British provider of cross-border payments, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The private equity investor has engaged Barclays Plc and JPMorgan & Co to explore strategic options, including a private sale and a domestic float, said the sources, who asked not to be named discussing private information.

Helios had been preparing to list Crown Agents Bank's shares as soon as next quarter, in what would be Britain's first major initial public offering (IPO) since Ithaca Energy in November, one source said.

But the timing of a float remains open, another source said, after the collapse of U.S. lender Silicon Valley Bank last week sent jitters across equity markets.

Meanwhile, banks are sounding out buyers as an alternative to a listing, with indicative offers expected in the coming weeks, one source said.

Spokespeople for Barclays and Helios declined to comment. Spokespeople for Crown Agents Bank and JPMorgan did not return requests for comment.

Sources disagreed on the potential price tag for Crown Agents Bank, with two of them placing it at up to 800 million pounds ($973.68 million) and another at well above 1 billion pounds.

However, they concurred that its valuation would be informed by that of British payments giant Wise.

Shares in Wise have slid more than 40% since the group's landmark direct listing in 2021 and are down almost 3% this year amid market turbulence.

It trades at about 45 times its earnings for the last 12 months and 26 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), including debt.

Crown Agents Bank, which focuses on emerging markets, posted operating income for 2021 of 53 million pounds, up from 33 million the year prior, along with a twelvefold increase in profits to close to 9 million pounds. Its EBITDA stood at 16 million pounds.

The explorations come after IPO levels in London plunged by roughly 90% last year and global merger and acquisitions (M&A)activity contracted on the back of rising interest rates and economic uncertainty.

A float would come as a win for London, where local technology companies have been looking overseas for a potential IPO home.

($1 = 0.8216 pounds)

(Reporting by Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro and Amy-Jo Crowley; Editing by John O'Donnell and Josie Kao)