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Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Westpac 'unlikely' to raise offer for St. George Bank

FREE TO CONSIDER Ted Evans, the chairman of Westpac said he would be surprised if anyone could match their 'compelling' bid of A$18.3 billion


Australia's Westpac Banking Corp is unlikely to raise its A$18.3 billion (US$17.5 billion) offer for St. George Bank Ltd unless rivals counter its bid, chairman Ted Evans said yesterday.

The Sydney-based bank's all-share offer is attractive, Evans told the Australian Broadcasting Corp's Inside Business program yesterday.

St. George Bank is open to higher takeover bids and is free to consider rival proposals until shareholders vote on Westpac’s offer, the Australian newspaper reported yesterday, citing chief executive officer Paul Fegan.

“We made a compelling bid that would see us right through this,” Evans said. “It’s compelling on price but it’s even more compelling on the operating model that we are offering. I’d be very surprised if anyone can or would match that.”

Westpac’s acquisition of St. George would make the group the nation’s second-largest lender and the biggest home-loan provider. Rivals National Australia Bank Ltd and Commonwealth Bank of Australia said they are watching the developments.

St. George’s board recommended Westpac’s offer on Tuesday and agreed not to seek other offers for a two-week period. Westpac is offering 1.31 of its shares for each of St. George’s, giving investors in the target company 28 percent of the enlarged group.

Westpac’s initial offer had been lower, Evans said, without providing details.

The offer is also designed to limit likely customer losses by maintaining the St. George brand, all of its branches and all of its automatic teller machines, he said.

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