ANZ said nearing deal to sell AmBank stake

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) is near a deal to sell its Malaysian banking stake to a pension fund and exit the South-East Asian nation, sources familiar with the matter said, in a transaction that could be worth around US$900 million (RM3.86 billion).

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

In June, RHB Bank Bhd and AmBank said they were starting merger talks, in Malaysia’s biggest ever 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 the end of August.

ANZ’s stake is expected to be roughly 10% in the merged entity.

Sources said ANZ is in talks to sell that stake to Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP), which already owns small stakes in both RHB and AmBank.

Both firms have “agreed in principle” to the deal at a price equivalent to one time book value of AmBank, said one of the sources.

“KWAP has always had an aspiration to hold a significant investment in a financial institution. KWAP had considered purchasing part of ANZ’s stake two years ago, but was not agreeable to the pricing,” said the source.

Last week, a local daily quoted KWAP CEO Datuk Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad as saying the fund was keen on buying ANZ’s stake after the proposed RHB and 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 the source.

The sources declined to be identified as the discussions were private.

RHB has indicated to analysts that it would pay AmBank shareholders a onetime multiple of the latter’s book value.

If the RHB-AmBank merger wins the approval of shareholders, the stakes of other key shareholders will also decline in the merged entity.

Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS, with a 17.8% stake in RHB, would hold 10.3%, according to a note by Maybank Investment Bank Research. — Reuters