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ANZ sells UDC Finance to China's HNA Group for $660 million

By Paul McBeth

UDC lends the funds needed for vehicles, equipment and machinery. Photo / Northern Advocate
UDC lends the funds needed for vehicles, equipment and machinery. Photo / Northern Advocate

ANZ Bank New Zealand has sold UDC Finance to HNA Group for $660 million, marking the Chinese company's first foray into New Zealand.

The deal is subject to various approvals and is expected to be completed late in the second half of the year, and will deliver a net gain to ANZ of A$100m, the lender said in a statement. The sale price is $235m above UDC's net assets, or a price-to-book ratio of 1.6 times.

"The sale of UDC is consistent with our strategy to simplify the bank and is a good outcome for customers and staff," ANZ New Zealand chief executive David Hisco said in a statement. "HNA is well placed to invest in specialist asset finance products and systems which will help UDC expand further in the future."

The finance company's ownership has been up in the air for almost a year, attracting suitors including NZX-listed Heartland Bank, though HNA emerged as the front-runner in December. ANZ's review of the ownership triggered Standard & Poor's to downgrade UDC's credit rating to A- from AA- and that question mark made it more difficult for the finance company to attract debenture funding.

Hainan, China-based HNA, which evolved from a regional airline to a global conglomerate with more than US$90 billion of assets, plans to preserve UDC's existing operations, keeping all staff and customers.

HNA vice chairman and chief executive Adam Tan said the Auckland-based non-deposit taker provides "significant growth opportunities in Australasia and supports HNA Group's disciplined approach to our core tourism, logistics and financial services businesses."

UDC holds the highest credit rating among its deposit-taking peers, with Liberty the only other NBDT with an investment grade rating at BBB. UDC is currently offering 3.6 per cent for a 12-month term deposit, sitting in the middle of the pack among other finance companies. However, longer duration terms are largely lower than UDC's peers.

The lender's debenture funding shrank to $1.59 billion as at September 30 from $1.74b a year earlier, reducing its share of deposits among finance companies to 57 per cent from 61 per cent a year earlier. At the same time, UDC's loan book expanded 9.6 per cent to $2.57b, helping generate a record profit of $58.3m.

- BusinessDesk

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