ANZ keen to exit Cambodia bank stake

SYDNEY Mon Mar 24, 2014 6:57pm EDT

A man walks past a branch of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) in Sydney October 29, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

A man walks past a branch of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) in Sydney October 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ.AX), the country's third-biggest lender, is keen to exit its holding in Cambodia and will look at wholly owned business models wherever regulations allow.

"We got out of a relationship, a small relationship, in Vietnam. We would like to do the same in Cambodia. I'd much rather have a wholly owned business in these places," ANZ CEO Mike Smith said at a press conference in Hong Kong on Monday.

ANZ owns a 55 percent stake in ANZ Royal Bank, a joint venture with Cambodia's Royal Group of Companies, according to its website.

ANZ has been the most aggressive of Australia's top four banks to push into Asia, investing in 15 countries in the region from Malaysia to China. Several of ANZ's Asian bank stakes are minority holdings and it therefore would be required to hold more capital under Australia's proposed regulations.

ANZ sold its entire 9.6 percent stake in Vietnam's Sacombank in 2012.

"This is not a new position and we are continuing to look at all our partnerships on this basis," Paul Edwards, a spokesman for ANZ told Reuters by email.

Since Smith joined ANZ in 2007, the bank has been trying to improve credit quality and stabilize its profit margin on interest rates, alongside its push to grow its business in the broader Asian region.

The bank beat first-quarter forecasts with a A$1.73 billion ($1.58 billion) profit for the three months to December and announced a surprise fall in projected bad loan provisions.

($1 = 1.0961 Australian Dollars)

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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