Royal Group Affirms Its Commitment to ANZ

Local conglomerate Royal Group said Tuesday that while it is committed to its partnership with Australia-based ANZ bank, it would entertain selling its stake in ANZ Royal Bank for “a very high offer.”

“The Royal Group would like to clarify that it is a strong and committed partner to ANZ in Cambodia and will remain so,” Mark Hanna, chief financial officer of Royal Group, wrote in an emailed statement.

The statement from Royal Group, whose chairman is well-connected businessman Kith Meng, comes in response to reports earlier this week that ANZ is seeking 100 percent control of its Cambodia operations.

“Together we have built a very successful franchise in Cambodia and we do not see that this will change,” Mr. Hanna said.

“Our position is that we like the bank and have no desire to sell. If they want to make a very high offer, it would be sensible to at least consider that. However, as it stands today, no offer has been discussed, and it is business as usual,” he wrote.

“With ANZ Royal being a very successful bank, it is natural that ANZ would like to own more of it. This has been ANZ’s position for some time, so this is not a new development, nor has it ever impacted Royal Group’s relationship with ANZ, which continues to be healthy.”

In 2005, ANZ entered an agreement with Royal Group to create ANZ Royal Bank, which now has 19 branches throughout the country.

In order to obtain full ownership of its local bank, ANZ could either buy out Royal Group, which owns 45 percent of the bank’s shares, or offload its shares and open a new bank, which would require a new license with the National Bank of Cambodia.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday reported that Melbourne-based ANZ CEO Mike Smith said the bank wanted to offload its majority stake in its Cambodia operations, a report that ANZ Royal CEO Grant Knuckey said was taken out of context.

Mr. Knuckey said that ANZ “would prefer to completely own 100 percent of its operations in Cambodia,” but declined to comment on how that might be achieved.

On Tuesday, Mr. Smith attempted to clarify his comments in an interview on the Australian television station Sky Business News.

“What I’ve always said is that for the minority interest that we have held, we always look to seek a way towards control and where possible to wholly own those businesses, and that is exactly the same in Cambodia,” Mr. Smith is quoted as saying.

“Cambodia is still an important country in Asia. It is still a very nascent economy. It’s got a long way to go. But I do believe that the potential for the medium and longer term will be good but I’d rather have 100 percent owned business,” he said.

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