Australia's CBA Eyeing BankWest: Report


Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), the country's No. 2 bank by assets, may offer over A$6 billion ($5.2 billion) to British bank HBOS for its Australian unit BankWest, the Australian
newspaper reported on Monday.

CBA declined to comment on the report.

HBOS, Britain's biggest mortgage-lender, has appointed Morgan Stanley to advise on future options for the west Australian-based lender, which is worth A$5 billion to A$7 billion, the newspaper said, citing banking sources.

But a CBA source told Reuters no formal process was underway. "If we were doing any deal like that then we would have appointed outside advisers," a CBA source said.

Morgan Stanley also declined comment.

The plan comes after CBA last week withdrew from acquisition discussions with Royal Bank of Scotland to acquire ABN AMRO Australia, the paper said.

CBA Chief Executive Ralph Norris said in a television interview on Sunday that his bank would continue to look for acquisition opportunities.

"You always look at acquisitions and it's about how compelling the acquisition opportunity is. Certainly, we would look at all opportunities. We have done that in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future," Norris said.

Last month, HBOS flagged asset sales after its first-half profits halved due to a 1.1 billion pound hit on debt securities. That stoked speculation it would offload BankWest.

But it is unlikely to find much interest among the other top Australian banks.

National Australia Bank, Australia's top lender, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group are seen unlikely buyers as they grapple with higher loan losses due to global credit crisis.

Westpac Banking, the fourth-biggest lender, is in the process of completing its planned A$16.9 billion acquisition of St George Bank.