Europe's largest bank, HSBC Holdings Plc, is said to be the front-runner to acquire a controlling stake in South Africa's fourth-largest lender Nedbank Group Limited.
HSBC said in a statement, "HSBC Holdings plc has entered into exclusive discussions with Old Mutual plc about the possible acquisition of a majority stake in Nedbank Group Limited, South Africa's fourth largest banking group by total assets."
The bank said that the discussions "are ongoing and if successfully concluded would be conditional on, among other matters, obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals. Further announcements will be made in due course as appropriate."
London-based financial services company Old Mutual Plc holds around 52-per cent stake in Nedbank through its South-African subsidiary.
It is believed that Old Mutual, which focuses on long-term savings is interested in selling its stake in Nedbank in accordance with the company's strategic objectives of simplifying the group, reducing the risk profile and improving the financial performance.
Three weeks ago, Old Mutual sold its US Life operations to Harbinger Capital Partners for $350 million.
Earlier reports indicated that HSBC and rival Standard Chartered Plc were in talks with Old Mutual over its majority stake in Nedbank. Both are keen to expand their presence in the fast-growing African continent.
SkyNews reported that HSBC had appointed Lazard group to advise it on the negotiations with Old Mutual on a possible deal.