St George leaves bid question open

St George Bank's chief financial officer, Steve McKerihan, said that the bank's board would consider any potential offers after its shareholder cap restrictions expire on July 1.

However, Mr McKerihan said that a potential bid is not St George's main focus at present, as it is concentrating on its organic growth strategy. The bank's management is not in defensive mode, he said, on the contrary – we feel that the best tactic is to develop and grow the business and add to its value. If then a bidder came along and offers a premium on top of that it would be a win-win situation for shareholders, he added.

With St George's restrictive articles of association due to expire on July 1st, speculation has mounted as to whether it will be subject to a takeover bid, or whether it will itself merge with or acquire another regional bank. At present, National Australia Bank holds a 10 per cent stake in St George, and Suncorp Metway has also been mentioned in terms of a merger, possibly as a co-bidder with Westpac.

But Mr McKerihan rejected suggestions of a merger with another regional institution in the short term. We're not focused on growth by acquisition at present, he said.