Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) announced yesterday it had snapped up part of the Asian operations of Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) for US$550 million as part of a plan to boost its regional presence. RBS will give up certain banking assets in six regional markets, including Hong Kong, in the deal. The sold businesses cover 54 branches and serve about two million affluent and emerging affluent clients. 'They are a very important stepping stone for ANZ's ambition to be a super-regional bank,' said ANZ chief executive Michael Smith. '[It's] going to add a fair amount of gravitas and give us a critical mass [and] platform on which to expand further into some of these key markets.' The acquisition price was at a US$50 million premium over the book value of the sold assets. Credit Suisse was the exclusive financial adviser to ANZ on the transaction. The Australian-based bank will pay for the deal with proceeds from share placements this year that amassed A$4.7 billion (HK$30.59 billion). And while ANZ did not dip deep into its war chest, the payment should still help RBS, which lost GBP24.1 billion (HK$316.52 billion) last year, a corporate record in Britain, and has scraped to cut costs and stave off complete nationalisation by the British government. RBS dumped its 4.3 per cent stake in Bank of China earlier this year and announced that it would not renew its sponsorship of a Formula One racing team when the deal ends next year. It also said in a release yesterday that it 'remained in advanced discussions with bidders' for some of its other Asian assets. Meanwhile, Mr Smith said there were still a few acquisition opportunities in the region, and this current deal was unlikely to be ANZ's last one. Its goal is to become a top-four foreign bank in Greater China and a so-called super-regional bank by 2012. 'Banks [are] moving out of the region, not by choice but from necessity to raise money,' he said. 'It's a sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we will continue to keep our eyes open.' ANZ has been scouring the region for acquisition targets over the past year, according to a source with knowledge of the RBS deal. RBS still has a presence in 11 regional markets, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.