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Who'll buy ABN AMRO's Australian unit? And what will happen to its 700 local staff?

With a reported AU$1bn price tag, and most banks struggling to find cash at the moment, sale advisers Lazard Carnegie Wylie certainly have their work cut out.

Analysts regard ABN AMRO's mergers and acquisition division as one of the key strengths of the local unit, and say any buyer will likely be keen to retain as many of the senior executives as possible given their considerable experience on huge privatisation deals such as Telstra.

"They have really good talent across the organisation, particularly through their M&A joint venture with Rothschild," says one analyst, who preferred not to be named. "My tip is that whoever buys ABN will be wanting to keep its experienced deal makers, even if that means there's some cross-over internally. That's experience worth buying."

Among the potential suitors already reported are National Australia Bank and ANZ. The two Australian banks could be keen on ABN's retail broking joint ventures, including half of stockbroker and financial planning outfit, ABN AMRO Morgans, which has 410 staff.

"NAB is definitely looking for acquisitions in the funds management manufacturing space," JPMorgan banking analyst Brian Johnson says. "They own MLC [the bank's wealth management division] but they are very weak in funds management manufacturing.

"And ANZ is really underweight in domestic wealth management."

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