NAB prepares to kick start consolidation

NATIONAL Australian Bank (NAB) chief executive Cameron Clyne yesterday admitted it has received approaches about using its Clydesdale and Yorkshire operations to lead a banking consolidation drive in Britain.

Speaking to shareholders at the institution’s annual meeting Clyne said: “We have been approached by a number of players in the UK market to see how we could work with them to participate in that consolidation.”

It is thought Yorkshire and Clydesdale could form the nucleus of a major new financial services business in the UK which could also include branches of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group which are up for sale.

Together the two NAB units have around 350 branches in the UK but Clyne admits the market presents a challenge.

He told the meeting: “The UK market remains difficult. However, as many of you would be aware, there is currently a process of consolidation occurring in the UK banking market.

NAB is regarded by City analysts as one of the most likely candidates to buy the 318 former Williams & Glyn’s branches and a clutch of NatWest branches in Scotland.

Clydesdale has £8.7bn of assets but it profits slumped from £529m to £108m in the year to September.

Meanwhile NAB has elbowed past rival AMP with an audacious A$13.3bn (£7.3bn) bid for Axa Asia Pacific Holdings (AAPH), majority owned by French insurer Axa.

The surprise bid by NAB, which won immediate support from AAPH’s independent directors yesterday, will transform Australia’s third-largest bank into the dominant player in Australia’s superannuation market.

NAB has offered A$6.43 a share, taking AAPH out of reach of wealth manager AMP which had made a “best and final” bid at A$6.22.

The deal depe on AXA buying AAPH’s units in eight Asian countries.