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Business

ANZ may sell partnership stakes in Asia, CEO says

Australian bank revising overseas retail, wealth management operations

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group CEO Shayne Elliott in an interview with The Nikkei.

TOKYO -- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group is considering selling off stakes in partner banks across Asia as it narrows its overseas focus to corporate clients, chief executive Shayne Elliott told The Nikkei during a recent trip to Japan.

The bank has dialed back its expansion into Asia under Elliott, who took the reins in January 2016, selling off mostly retail and wealth management interests in the region.

ANZ last month announced the sale of its Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank holdings, acquired in 2007. It has also made investments in Malaysian and Indonesian financial institutions in hopes of gaining business know-how in the region. Those could be unloaded too as Elliott reshapes the bank's retail operations.

"Retail and wealth management businesses require scale," he said, explaining that there was a "high degree of complexity and operation risk" in doing business in multiple countries. Outside Australia and New Zealand, the bank should focus on institutional business, he said, in a step toward improving capital efficiency.

But Elliott stressed that ANZ was not changing its aggressive stance in Asia. "We have to follow and listen to our customers," he said. "Eighty percent of Australian exports come to Asia."

Elliott is not considering acquiring other banks as a way to strengthen ANZ's operations overseas. He will not be setting numerical earnings targets, and will put priority on profitability over the size of the business. He plans to invest more in digital infrastructure, such as an online payment platform.

The ANZ chief said he had no plans to downsize in Japan given great business opportunities here, such as helping Japanese companies invest in infrastructure in the rest of Asia and Oceania.

(Nikkei)

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