REFILE-UPDATE 1-Khazanah bids for GE's $1.8 bln Thai bank stake - sources

Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:41am EDT
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* Khazanah competing against Japan's MUFG - sources

* GE plans to select a preferred bidder soon - sources

* Thailand's so-called single-presence policy an obstacle

By Saeed Azhar and Taiga Uranaka

March 15 (Reuters) - Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional Bhd is seeking to buy General Electric's $1.8 billion stake in Bank of Ayudhya (BAY), sources familiar with the matter said, pitting it against Japanese banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG).

Khazanah's bid for GE's 25.3 percent stake came as a surprise, the sources said, declining to be identified as the information was not public.

The proposed acquisition would be the largest purchase of an overseas banking asset by Khazanah as it plays catch-up with Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings Pvt Ltd . The Malaysian sovereign wealth fund currently manages a portfolio that is just a quarter of the $158 billion of assets held by its neighbouring rival.

Khazanah had in the past shied away from taking large banking stakes overseas, focusing on healthcare assets in Singapore and Turkey as well as real estate deals. The bid for GE's stake would mark a shift in Khazanah's strategy.   Continued...