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ANZ wins the best bank in Australia award for several reasons. Chief among them is its boldness in taking meaningful steps outside Australia and New Zealand, principally into Asia. Although some of its competitors have retreated from Asia in recent years, ANZ has been quietly expanding its presence and now boasts a true regional footprint, with offices in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. With the economy visibly slowing in Australia, the easy-money years for domestic banking are clearly over, making a viable overseas strategy all the more relevant.
ANZ also stands out from the competition because of its strong financial results. Despite the costs of absorbing the acquisition of National Bank of New Zealand, ANZ has reported consistent increases in profits, with a total return to shareholders of 17% for the year to September 2004. Half-year results to March 2005 showed continued robust growth and strengthened financial ratios. Return on average shareholders' equity for the half-year was 17.2%, net interest margin a respectable 2.4% and the dividend payout ratio a generous 64.7%.