RBF grants conditional approval to Kina Securities for Westpac Fiji acquisition

Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) Governor and Board chairperson Ariff Ali. Picture: ATU RASEA/FT FILE

Fiji’s central bank has granted conditional approval on Kina Securities Limited’s (KSL) application to buy Westpac Fiji.

The Board of the Reserve Bank of Fiji reached this resolution after its deliberations yesterday on the comprehensive assessment conducted on KSL’s application.

The Westpac Group had announced its intention to sell its Westpac Pacific Business – Westpac Fiji and Westpac’s 89.91 per cent stake in Westpac Bank PNG Limited – to KSL on December 7, 2020; subject to regulatory approvals in Fiji and PNG, and KSL shareholder approval.

The RBF said to effect the acquisition of Westpac Fiji, KSL had submitted its application for a licence to conduct business in Fiji as a commercial bank through its wholly-owned subsidiary Kina Securities (Fiji) Pte Limited (KSF), on February 19, 2021.

The central bank said the application went through a comprehensive assessment as required under the Banking Act 1995.

“The receipt of KSL’s application for a commercial banking licence in Fiji, resulting from its interest to acquire the Westpac Fiji operations, has been viewed as bold particularly at a time of economic recession in Fiji and globally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” RBF Governor and Board chairperson Ariff Ali said in a statement last night to announce the board’s decision.

“The proposal by KSL is, therefore, acknowledged as a commitment by a Pacific-based financial institution to expand aggressively in a region still trying to recover from the downside effects of the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Ali added that while the decision on KSL’s application to acquire Westpac PNG remained pending at this time, which he attributed to the likelihood of lessening competition in Papua New Guinea’s banking sector, “the acquisition of Westpac Fiji will not affect domestic competition as six banks will continue to operate in Fiji”.

“Nevertheless, the Reserve Bank of Fiji will continue to monitor developments relating to KSL’s proposed acquisition of Westpac PNG, and any impact it may have on the Westpac Fiji acquisition.”

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