Standard Chartered, the London-listed bank which conducts the majority of its business in Asia, is lining up a A$2.5bn (£950m) purchase of ANZ Grindlays, Australia & New Zealand bank's South Asian and Middle East subsidiary, according to sources close to the talks.
Neither Standard nor ANZ would comment directly on the speculation, but a spokesman for the UK firm said: "We are obviously looking at lots of opportunities." An ANZ official said: "We do get approached from time to time."
It is understood that final negotiations are under way in Dubai between senior executives from the two groups. Talks are thought to have been going on for over two months.
Grindlays offers a full range of financial services to retail and corporate customers in 11 countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the year to 30 September 1999, the group's South Asian operations made a profit of A$61m, while the Middle Eastern arm made A$33m. The two units had combined net assets of A$1.3bn.
The deal would give Standard access to 700,000 new customers and over 40 branches in the valuable Indian market as well as strengthening its presence in the Middle East. For ANZ, the sale offers the chance to exit a market where it has never reached its profit targets.
Grindlays is facing a potential A$461m legal claim arising from a dispute with the National Housing Bank of India. ANZ took a A$145m abnormal provision for the case in 1997 and has set aside a further A$80m to cover costs. Standard shares closed down 7p at 823.5p while in Australia, ANZ rose 6 per cent to end at $11.47.
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