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    St George Bank said it expected to book a pre-tax profit of $26.6 million from the $38 million sale of its unbranded automatic teller machine (ATM) network.

    The nation's fifth largest bank is selling the network of 700 machines to Australian Stock Exchange listed payments systems and e-commerce company Customers Ltd.

    St George said the profit will be treated as a significant item in its fiscal 2005 results.

    "The sale is consistent with the group's overall policy of divesting non-core assets," St George said.

    "St George will continue to own and maintain its own branded ATM network, which is integral to the group's core business."

    The unbranded ATMS are mostly located in merchant premises.

    Customers said the unbranded network generates more than 20 million transaction a year.

    It said that excluding transaction costs the new operation, when combined with Customers' existing ATM business, was anticipated to be profitable from the acquisition date.

    The $38 million purchase price will be funded through a mixture of senior debt, mezzanine finance and an underwritten equity placement.

    Details of the funding, including the placement, will be announced in the near year.

    "There has been extremely strong support for this transaction by our financiers and a number of leading equity investors," Customers chairman Julian Ludowici said.

    He said the transaction supported the company's ambition, outlined to shareholders at in December, to expand its payments operations.

    "We indicated we were confident about the opportunities available for a nimble and focused player and that our immediate focus would be in the ATM space," he said.

    "Our initial objective was to achieve a base of 1,000 ATMs nationally and this will almost be achieved with this single transaction.

    "It is very pleasing that I can report we have achieved our initial objective in less than a month and have acquired a high calibre merchant ATM base that will be an outstanding foundation for our growth plans."
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