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Banking & finance briefs: ANZ's Asian warchest, Spanish banking jitters

Banking & finance briefs: ANZ's Asian warchest, Spanish banking jitters

ANZ eyes Asian acquisitions, ASB eyes escort.

1. ANZ eyes Asian splurge - ANZ could potentially spend more than A$5 billion expanding its Asian presence in Indonesia and South Korea. ANZ Asia-Pacific, Europe and America chief executive Alex Thursby told The Australian the bank could potentially snap up a majority stake in the Korea Exchange Bank and a 46% holding in Indonesia's Panin Bank.

Asked if the bank could go ahead with both deals, Mr Thursby said: "We have built the capacity in terms of our overall strength.

" Two years ago, we could have done neither."

2. ASB aims to recoup money from Versalko's escort - ASB is suing a woman described as an escort for NZ$2.55 million she received from the bank's former employee and convicted fraudster Stephen Versalko. The NZ Herald reports the woman, one of two escorts Versalko paid at least NZ$3.4 million and gave gifts worth another NZ$800,000, has name suppression. The bank is not pursuing the other escort. ASB says it was "unconscionable" for the woman Versalko met in Auckland's Pelican Club to have kept the money. It claims Versalko made two large payments to a company run by the woman and a further 19 smaller ones in 2008 and 2009.

3. Tough AXA case for NAB with ACCC - BNZ's parent National Australia Bank will have to sell AXA Asia Pacific's North platform to have any chance of over turning the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision to block its A$14 billion takeover offer for the fund manager, according to The Age. But even that may not be enough with the ACCC concerned about the control Australia's big four banks exert over the wealth management sector.

4. Jitters among Spanish banks - The Bank of Spain stepped in to prop up the Cordoba-based Cajasur over the weekend after merger talks with Unicaja broke down, The Daily Telegraph reports. Cajasur can draw E550 million immediately from the state's Fund for Orderly Banking Restructuring to enable it to keep operating and fulfil its obligations.

The collapse of Cajasur is likely to revive fears over the health of Spanish banks, which skirted the US subprime crisis but are succumbing to local property busts. Cajasur is heavily exposed to second homes on the Costa del Sol, where prices are in free fall.

Goldman Sachs said Spain's property companies have debts of €445bn, or 45pc of GDP, mostly owed to savings banks known as cajas. The stock of unsold homes reached 926.000 at the end of last year.

"Banks may not be able to recoup large parts of these loans. These losses will have to be recognised eventually, bringing down many institutions," it said.

5. New chairman tipped for HSBC - Britain's Sunday Telegraph reports HSBC chairman Stephen Green is to leave later this year to be succeeded by John Thornton, a non-executive director who was once Hank Paulson's heir-apparent at Goldman Sachs. The newspaper says the move will pave the way for the most radical overhaul of HSBC's board in generations.

The handover will mark a huge transformation at Europe's largest bank.

Mr Green, 61, will be its last executive chairman, a role that has been handed from chairman to chief executive for much of its history to keep the global lender's unique culture intact.


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