Westpac says it will not respond to speculation in Australian media this week that it is on the verge of selling its Pacific businesses.
A Westpac Fiji spokesperson says the Bank “is currently undertaking strategic review of its specialist businesses, as we shared with the market in May. This includes wealth platforms, superannuation products, investments, general and life insurance and auto finances well as Westpac Pacific.
“Given this, there is going to be ongoing speculation circulating – as there has been since Westpac sold some Pacific operations in 2015. Westpac does not respond to speculation and, as always, if there is news to share about our business, our people and customers will hear it from us.”
On Monday, The Australian newspaper [paywall] reported that it had information Westpac was close to selling its Pacific banking operations, and that while the buyer’s identity was unclear, “logical acquirers” would be either the Papua New Guinea-headquartered Bank South Pacific (BSP) or France’s BRED.
Westpac sold its Samoa, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga operations to BSP in 2015. It retains operations in Fiji and PNG.
In May this year, Westpac announced statutory net profit was down 62% (A$1,190 million) for the first half of 2020, compared to the first half of 2019. In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange it said it was clear that Westpac needed to “simplify and focus on its Australian and New Zealand banking businesses,” and that a Specialist Businesses division under the leadership of Jason Yetton would review Westpac’s Pacific businesses, superannuation, wealth investments, insurance and auto finance.
“Over the coming months we will conduct a detailed strategic review on the best option for these businesses. This will include considering whether they would ultimately be more successful under different ownership” the Bank said in May.
Meanwhile in Fiji, “customers can be assured that we are here to help and continue our support to people and communities across Fiji, including through our COVID-19 customer assistance package,” the Westpac Fiji spokesperson says.