Two of Pakistan's biggest banks, Habib Bank Ltd (HBL) and MCB Bank (MCB), are competing to bid for Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) local assets (RBS.KA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), which the market values at $266 million.
The Pakistan sale is part of moves by part-nationalised, London-based RBS to sell assets globally as it tries to exit up to 36 countries and focus on its mainly UK core businesses.
Habib Bank, which is majority owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, and MCB, which is 20 percent-owned by Malaysia's Maybank (MBBM.KL: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), said separately they had expressed an interest to buy RBS's operations in RBS Pakistan.
The two Pakistan lenders may be interested in RBS's assets to gain clients from multinational companies, its consumer banking network and a few prized branches in main cities, analysts said.
But international banks or midsized domestic players, who have a smaller Pakistan exposure, could derive more value if they buy the local RBS assets than either MCB, Pakistan's most valuable bank, or HBL, the second-most valuable, they said.
The two Pakistani banks have more than 2,500 branches combined in the South Asian nation.
The two banks may be after RBS's multinational clients and its prized branch network, said Asif Qureshi, head of research at broker Invisor Securities. But if RBS (Pakistan) is bought by Chinese or Saudi players, it could create more synergy.
The banks are seeking approval from the State Bank of Pakistan, the central bank, to start due diligence.
The attractive element for HBL and MCB would be RBS's consumer banking as it is a strong player in that, said Farhan Rizvi, analyst at JS Global Capital Ltd.
RBS said in February it intended to explore new ownership of its operations in Pakistan due to its capital constraints and the need for the bank to reduce the size of its balance sheet.
RBS bought into Pakistan last August through its acquisition of Dutch ABN Amro Ltd. It currently operates 79 branches. RBS Pakistan has a loan book of 68 billion rupees ($844 million), deposits of 79 billion rupees and assets of 108 billion rupees.
Analysts said if HBL wins the race for RBS Pakistan, it would become the largest bank in the country in terms of assets, deposits and branches.
RBS Pakistan was trading 8.9 percent higher at 12.48 rupees on Monday afternoon. Both HBL and MCB gained 5 percent, while the broader market .KSE was up 3.4 percent. ($1=80.60 Pakistani Rupee) (Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)