SYDNEY Britain's Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) is preparing to exit the Australian market, seeking to sell a leasing unit with a book value of $3.6 billion and a $625 million institutional loan portfolio, three sources familiar with the situation said on Friday.
The part-nationalized bank is aiming to cut its international branches to fewer than 10 countries by 2014 from 14 currently to lower costs and strengthen its balance sheet.
Progress in its turnaround plans has meant that Britain could sell a quarter of its 39 percent stake to institutional investors in the next week, people close to the matter have said.
The sale of the A$700 million ($625 million) loan portfolio of Lloyds' Bank of Scotland International unit appears to be the furthest along. At least five bidders are shortlisted, one source told Reuters.
National Australia Bank Ltd (NAB.AX), Macquarie Group Ltd (MQG.AX), private equity giant KKR & Co LP (KKR.N), Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) and US hedge fund Oaktree Capital Group (OAK.N) made it to the second round, with bids due in mid-August, the source added.
"It's a portfolio of loans that are either non-performing or non-core," a separate source said of the loans up for sale.
The British bank is also selling its motor and equipment leasing unit Capital Finance, two of the sources said. Some two-thirds of Capital Finance's lease business is motor vehicle financing and the balance is made up of equipment financing, one source added.
Goldman Sachs (GS.N) is advising Lloyds on the sales, the sources said.
The sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to speak on the record. KKR, Lloyds, Macquarie, NAB, Westpac and Goldman declined to comment. Oaktree was not immediately available for comment.
The Australian Financial Review first reported on the shortlist on Friday.
(Reporting by Sharon Klyne of Basis Point and Jackie Range; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)