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Manila’s Metrobank eyes assets of AIG unit


October 24, 2008

Manila’s Metrobank eyes assets of AIG unit

Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co (Metrobank), the Philippines' largest lender, wants to acquire the local assets of embattled American International Group, Reuters quoted the bank as saying Thursday.

Metrobank joins a growing list of possible buyers for the U.S. insurer's local flagship, Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co (Philamlife). The list includes the country's richest businessmen, Henry Sy and the Ayala clan.

"Philamlife's businesses fit the operations of the respective companies in our group," Metrobank Vice-Chairman Antonio Abacan said in a statement.

"They are very strong and well-managed corporations, and a successful acquisition of these companies would accelerate the growth of the Metrobank group in these areas," Abacan said.

Metrobank has holdings in life insurer Philippine AXA Life, a joint venture with French insurer AXA Group, and in non-life insurance firm Philippine Charter Insurance Corp.

Metrobank, with a market value of nearly $996 million, said its thrift bank subsidiary, Philippine Savings Bank, would be looking to acquire Philam Savings Bank of the Philam group.

Its credit card unit, Metrobank Card Corporation -- a joint venture between the bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp -- would have a strategic fit with AIG-Philam's card business, Metrobank said.

Conglomerate Ayala Corp has said it was studying a possible acquisition of Philamlife and its assets, as have SM Investments Corp of Henry Sy, and Alfonso Yuchengco of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

Jose Cuisia, Philamlife's chief executive, has said AIG has received offers from about 10 local and foreign groups for Philamlife after it was declared among the assets being sold by the U.S. insurer to pay off its costly lifeline loan from the US government. AIG has yet to decide whether it would sell the $3.6 billion Philamlife and its units in one transaction or break up the group and sell parts to different investors.

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