ANZ wants cheaper China entre

ANZ chief executive Michael Smith (left) says takeover targets in Hong Kong are attractive but expensive.

ANZ chief executive Michael Smith (left) says takeover targets in Hong Kong are attractive but expensive.

"I have always been interested in assets in this part of the world and Hong Kong obviously is an attractive market, but I feel they are overpriced," he said.

"I look at Hong Kong as very much a stepping stone into China. Therefore, anything you look for has to have the strategic next step in terms of your expansion into the Chinese mainland."

The ANZ boss is trying to double the contribution from his bank's businesses outside Australia and New Zealand to as much as 30 per cent of profit by 2017.

His largest transaction since becoming chief executive in 2007 was $550 million for Royal Bank of Scotland's businesses in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Vietnam in 2009.

His bank was among those interested in buying Hong Kong's Wing Hang Bank, it was reported last month. It was also among five bidders for Chong Hing Bank, the Oriental Daily reported.

Speaking in Hong Kong, Mr Smith declined to confirm bids for the two banks. Wing Hang trades for 1.7 times its corporate net worth, while Chong Hing is valued at 1.9 times book value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The more profitable Wing Hang may fetch as much as three times book value.

"I am always looking at various opportunities but, right now, I think it is all too expensive," Mr Smith said. "Two times book is ridiculous at these times"

He said in 2008 that paying more than three times book value for Wing Lung Bank was "crazy". The next day, China Merchants Bank beat ANZ for Wing Lung in a deal that valued it at that level.

ANZ expected to get a bank license next year in Thailand, the only major Asian market it didn't operate in.

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