Britain's fourth-largest bank HBOS is planning to open 160 new branches in Australia, it has been announced.
The bank's Australian unit BankWest is to embark on its expansion during 2007 and 2008, for which some $320 million has been earmarked.
The new branches will be located on Australia's east coast and will be open for longer as the bank seeks to attract custom from its competitors in the domestic market and in so doing circumvent the need to expand through acquisitions.
However, HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby refused to rule out acquisitions in the future.
He told AAP: "You're never going to hear anybody say to a journalist never, because that would be shooting yourself in the foot for life.
"But what you can take very clearly from today's announcement is we have big plans for Australia... We're here for the long haul and Australia is an absolute core plank of our strategy.
News of the bank's plans comes after statistics from Credit Suisse estimated that smaller, regional lenders in Australia have reduced the market share of Australia's four largest bank by five per cent during the last ten years.
It is now thought that National Australia Bank, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ hold around 75 per cent of the Australian banking market.