No play for BankWest?

It is drawing rather a long bow to suggest that the National Australian Bank sale of Michigan National for a tasty $5.3 billion somehow puts Bank of WA in play. Analysts are promoting an asset swap with 55 per cent BankWest owner Bank of Scotland as the next act in NAB boss Frank Cicutto’s strutting on the world stage. The popular notion is Bank of Scotland is trading its stake in BankWest in return for holdings in the NAB-owned Yorkshire Bank and the Clydesdale Bank.

Supposedly, this would help the Australian bank obtain a dual listing for its shares in the UK. There are possibly three holes in that scenario. Bank of Scotland is currently preoccupied with its own merger talks with Abbey National. If Cicutto needs a London listing, there must be cheaper and less complicated ways of getting one. And why on earth would he want BankWest which could bring him on a collision course with the ACCC?

BankWest has tried hard to build a national franchise with some innovative initiatives. But it is tagged as a pedestrian regional bank, and does not even win kudos from institutional investors for being based in a state growing faster than average. The share price shot up to $4.35 briefly early this year, when there were rumours that ANZ had left its calling card, but it soon slid back to $3.60.

NAB shares were pushed up to a record $31 following the Michigan coup. Investors want to see the bag of cash spent on a credible European acquisition sooner rather than later. Cicutto might find that a premium market rating is a bit like the libido – if you don’t use it you lose it.

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