Westpac will slim down operations in Europe

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The Independent Online
WESTPAC, the Australian bank, yesterday announced a streamlining of its European operations and an end to eurobond trading in London.

The moves follow a review of the bank's activities in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

The bank is slimming its corporate lending to concentrate on businesses with Australasian connections and plans to rationalise other corporate banking activities.

It is also to close its Paris branch as part of reductions in its French operations.

The French Pacific territories will be serviced through the Asia Pacific offices.

Frank Conroy, Westpac managing director, said the review was part of a critical re-examination of all aspects of the bank's operations, domestic and international, announced at the time of the half- year results on 20 May.

Mr Conroy added that the bank would continue to provide foreign exchange, money market, fixed-interest and risk management services from Europe.

He also said the bank was totally committed to Mase Westpac, the bullion and precious metal dealing subsidiary in London.

Westpac's most decisive move is to drop eurobond trading entirely, which will cost 20 jobs.

The outstanding bond portfolio is being laid off with other firms. The bank said origination, syndication and market making would cease immediately.

Westpac's London office was a member of the International Securities Markets Association and was a large contributor to the development of the eurobond market in Australian and New Zealand dollars.

The bank said it was continuing to trade in Australian and New Zealand domestic bonds, options and Euro-commercial paper.

Westpac is the oldest foreign bank in the City, set up in 1853.