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CBA possible suitor in Indonesia

17 Jan 2013 THE AGE - ERIC JOHNSTON



COMMONWEALTH Bank is reportedly one of several global lenders expected to submit preliminary bids to buy Rabobank's Indonesian unit in a $US400 million ($380 million) deal.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Qatar National Bank are others also looking at the banking unit, Reuters reported without citing sources.

First-round bids are due by the end of January, and some suitors are already working with financial advisers to place indicative proposals, Reuters reported.

Given CBA's dominance in Australia, analysts believe new chief executive Ian Narev will push ahead with a measured expansion offshore, mostly through existing banking investments in Indonesia and China.

While ANZ has been spearheading the expansion of Australian banks into Asia, CBA has been quietly building operations in China and Indonesia.

CBA has already outlined plans to expand to 150 branches in its Jakarta-based banking arm, up from a little over 100 now. In China CBA's investments extend to a 20 per cent stake in two regional banks.

The interest in Rabobank's Indonesian business reflects foreign banks' desires to increase their presence in south-east Asia's largest economy; although, of the population of 240 million, half do not have bank accounts.

Dutch-based Rabobank, which is dominant in agribusiness lending, is selling off small and non-strategic businesses to focus on its core agricultural market.

Commonwealth Bank, ICBC and Qatar National Bank each declined to comment.

Any deal would be subject to Indonesia's new bank ownership rules that cap foreign ownership in domestic banks at 40 per cent, subject to some exemptions from the central bank.