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Friday, January 5, 2001

Bankoh sells
its stakes in 2
South Pacific banks

By Russ Lynch

Bank of Hawaii has sold its 30 percent interest in the Bank of Tonga and its 42 percent share of Pacific Commercial Bank in Samoa to its Australian partner in the banks, Westpac Banking Corp.

Bank of Hawaii Richard Dahl, Bank of Hawaii president and chief executive, said Westpac is the logical company to take over Bankoh's interests since the Australian company manages both banks. Dahl said Bankoh will concentrate its South Pacific efforts in other areas such as French Polynesia, where it has controlling interests in Tahiti and New Caledonia banks.

The sale price was not disclosed but a Westpac executive told Bloomberg News it was "well under" $11 million.

Westpac becomes 60 percent owner of the five-branch Tonga operation, with the remainder owned by the Tongan government, and 84 percent owner of the four-branch Samoa bank, with the rest owned by Samoan investors.

It is the third asset sale in three weeks by Bankoh parent Pacific Century Financial Corp., as it seeks to improve its financial performance. On Dec. 20 the company announced it was selling its credit card business to American Express and on Dec. 27 it said it sold its nine Arizona branches to Zions Bancorp. All the deals were in the works before Michael E. O'Neill came aboard as chairman and chief executive on Nov. 3, according to a Bankoh spokesman.

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