ANZ 'nears deal to sell Malaysian bank stake'

KUALA LUMPUR/ABU DHABI • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is near a deal to sell its Malaysian banking stake to a pension fund and exit the Southeast Asian nation, sources familiar with the matter said, in a transaction that could be worth around US$900 million (S$1.24 billion).

ANZ has been pursuing a sale of its 24 per cent stake in its affiliate AMMB Holdings (AmBank) since early last year as part of a strategy to divest minority stakes in Asia and as AmBank was dragged into a corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

In June, RHB Bank and AmBank said they were starting merger talks, in Malaysia's biggest banking deal. As part of the all-share deal, valued at about US$9 billion, RHB is looking to acquire AmBank and the two banks are in exclusive talks until end-August. ANZ's stake is expected to be roughly 10 per cent in the merged entity.

Sources said ANZ is in talks to sell that stake to Malaysian retirement fund KWAP, which already owns small stakes in RHB and AmBank.

Both firms have "agreed in principle" to the deal at a price equivalent to a one-time multiple of AmBank's book value, said one source.

Last week, Malaysia's Star newspaper quoted KWAP chief executive Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad as saying the fund was keen to buy ANZ's stake after the proposed RHB-AmBank merger.

KWAP and AmBank declined to comment. "We will decline to comment on market speculation," an ANZ spokesman said.

ANZ's stake is also drawing interest from another Malaysian institutional investor, said a source. The sources declined to be identified as the discussions were private.

ANZ wanted to exit the stake partly after AmBank was dragged into the 1MDB scandal, sources had said previously. In 2015, AmBank was slapped with a RM53.7 million (S$17.2 million) fine by Malaysian regulators for breaching financial regulations.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'ANZ 'nears deal to sell Malaysian bank stake''. Print Edition | Subscribe