NZX-listed Heartland Bank, which first raised the possibility of buying UDC from ANZ in 2016, said it remained interested in the finance company after the sale to China's HNA failed to achieve Overseas Investment Office approval late last year.

The OIO said in December that it had rejected HNA's application to buy UDC for $660 million due to unanswered questions about the Hainan-based conglomerate's ownership structure.

Soon after the OIO's decision, ANZ said it was assessing its strategic options regarding the future of UDC but that it would be "business as usual" for staff and customers.

In a short statement to the Herald on Friday, Heartland communications manager Carley Young said: "I can confirm that Heartland remains interested in acquiring UDC."


As far back as November, 2016, Heartland chief executive Jeff Greenslade was describing UDC as an "ideal fit".

Greenslade told the annual meeting back then that acquisition would "complement our strategy and would provide a number of synergies".

A report in Friday's edition of the Australian said UDC remained "in the cross hairs of suitors", with Heartland and two parties out of Asia in pursuit of the operation.

A spokesman for ANZ in Auckland said the bank had nothing more to add to its initial comment last year.

Meanwhile, S&P Global Ratings has removed UDC from "creditwatch negative" following the failure of the HNA deal.

"We are affirming our ratings on UDC at 'BBB/A-2', and removing them from CreditWatch negative. The outlook is stable," S&P said.

The agency said the stable outlook reflected its expectation that ANZ would continue to back UDC and to support its funding needs through a committed funding facility, which is scheduled to mature in September 2019.

"We consider that the downside pressure on UDC's credit profile has abated because the finance company's ultimate parent, Australia-based Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, has now announced that it will not proceed with the sale of UDC to the privately owned Chinese conglomerate HNA group.


"Consequently, we have removed our ratings on UDC from CreditWatch with negative implications," it said.

UDC, a 75-year-old finance company, is active in the transport and heavy machinery lending.

HNA, which has made more than US$40 billion of acquisitions over six continents since the start of 2016, has come to the attention of regulators in various jurisdictions around the world, centring on its disclosure practices. The company, which started as an airline based in Hainan Island, has holdings in big names around the world, including Hilton Worldwide and Deutsche Bank.

Across the Tasman, HNA is under the spotlight over questions about how its 19 per cent stake in Virgin Australia is controlled.

Heartland, which has a market capitalisation of $1.15 billion, last month successfully raised $59 million through a rights issue.

The bank said the funds raised were aimed at supporting continued growth in its loan portfolio and maintaining a strong balance sheet.

Heartland reported a net profit of $60.8 million for 2016/17, up 12 per cent on the previous year.