15/10/2008 - 22:00

Squeeze on banking sector

15/10/2008 - 22:00

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THE country's banking sector has been the focus of intense scrutiny over the past few months as the global financial turmoil casts light on potential targets.

THE country's banking sector has been the focus of intense scrutiny over the past few months as the global financial turmoil casts light on potential targets.

Last week, speculation over the future of Perth-headquartered BankWest was put to rest after Commonwealth Bank of Australia emerged as the buyer of the bank and wealth management business St Andrew's for $2.1 billion.

Speculation over BankWest's future has been a hot topic since June after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reinforced the four pillars policy, which prevents the big four banks from merging.

Also fanning conjecture was the fact that UK parent company HBOS plc was running into trouble over a £4 billion capital raising, which proved to be a flop in July.

At the same time, CBA and the National Australia Bank were being tipped by analysts and media commentators to be in the BankWest takeover race.

The market didn't even have time to digest the BankWest acquisition with CBA already touted as a potential buyer of banking and insurance group Suncorp-Metway Ltd's banking and asset management businesses.

However the acquisitive CBA reportedly did not lodge a proposal by the deadline, with ANZ Banking Group Ltd the only bidder.

But an announcement during the week that the federal government will guarantee all bank deposits in light of the financial crisis has Suncorp assessing whether to sell the two divisions.

The company said it would assess the implications for the potential sale, with analysts speculating that Suncorp may not go ahead with a deal.

The BankWest takeover follows a string of mergers and acquisitions taking place in the financial sector, with the competition watchdog giving its blessing for Australia's third largest mortgage provider, Westpac, to take over St George Bank in a $15.1 billion deal.

The acquisition will boost Westpac's market share of home loans to 24 per cent, however CBA will retain its number one position with 28 per cent after its takeover of BankWest has been completed.

Meanwhile, from the start of next month, the merger between Western Australian financial institution United Credit Union and Adelaide-based Community CPS Australia will come into effect.

The merged entity will have total assets under management of $2.5 billion and more than $300 million of additional funds under advice through a wealth management subsidiary.

The acquisition leaves Police & Nurses Credit Society as the last Perth-based credit union in the WA market, following the acquisition by Bank of Queensland of Home Building Society in late 2007.

Next month will also mark the one-year anniversary of the merger between Bendigo Bank and Adelaide Bank, which is now known as Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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