SINGAPORE/HONG KONG, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia has approached a unit of Bank of China , Fubon Financial Holdings, Maybank and Japanese lenders to gauge interest for its $1.7 billion stake in Thai lender Thanachart, people familiar with the matter said.
Scotiabank, as Bank of Nova Scotia is known, has hired Morgan Stanley as adviser for the sale of its 49 percent stake in Thanachart, which has been approaching the propective bidders, they said. First-round bids for the sale are expected in the second quarter, one of the sources said.
The Canadian lender, which announced in December it was reviewing its Thanachart investment, wants to exit its retail presence in Asia and focus mainly on corporate banking in the region through a few key offices, one of the sources said. Thanachart Capital Pcl owns the remaining 51 percent stake.
Scotiabank is the latest mid-sized Western player to rethink its strategy in Asia in the face of headwinds from low growth in China, depressed commodities prices and falling interest rates.
"No final decision has been made with respect to this investment and no further update is available beyond what was announced in December," Scotiabank spokesman Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern said. Thanachart Bank declined to comment.
Bank of China's unit BOC HK is showing interest in the stake, one of the sources said. Scotiabank's adviser has approached Japanese lenders Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (SMBC), a unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, the sources said. The sources declined to be identified because the talks are not public.
Morgan Stanley did not respond to requests for comment. The two Japanese banks, BOC Hong Kong, Maybank and Fubon all declined to comment. (Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Denny Thomas; Additional reporting by John Tilak in TORONTO, Taiga Uranaka in TOKYO, Praveen Menon in KUALA LUMPUR, Emily Chan in TAIPEI and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn in BANGKOK; Editing by Lisa Jucca and Muralikumar Anantharaman)