Commonwealth Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Qatar National Bank are among the suitors expected to submit preliminary bids to buy Rabobank's Indonesian unit in a $US400 million ($380 million) deal, sources with direct knowledge of the matter say.

First-round bids are due by the end of January, and some suitors are already working with financial advisers to place indicative proposals, the sources said.

The strong line-up for Rabobank's Indonesian business reflects foreign banks' interest in increasing their presence in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, where more than half the population of 240 million still do not have bank accounts.

Rabobank, which has its roots in the Dutch farming sector, is shedding subscale and nonstrategic businesses to focus its international operations on the agricultural industry. The planned sale of its Indonesian unit is part of that process.

Late last year, it sold its majority stake in private Swiss bank Sarasin for 1.04 billion Swiss francs ($1.1 billion) to global private banking group Safra.

Commonwealth Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and Qatar National Bank declined to comment. Rabobank did not reply to an email seeking comment. The sources declined to be identified because the sale process was confidential.

The deal would be subject to Indonesia's new bank ownership rules that cap foreign ownership in domestic banks at 40 per cent, subject to some exemptions from the central bank.

Indonesia is the only Asian country in which the Dutch bank has retail operations. Rabobank entered Indonesia in 1990, and expanded to 90 branches and has an estimated book value of $US135 million, one of the sources said. Applying a multiple of up to three times book value, the business could fetch about $US400 million.

CBA, Australia's top bank by market value, has largely been focused on its Australia and New Zealand business. Outside its home market, CBA has been quietly bolstering its presence without acquisitions.

CBA and Qatar National Bank have hired financial advisers to help with the Indonesia purchase and are working towards submitting first-round bids, the sources added.

ICBC, the world's biggest bank by market value, has been gradually expanding its global footprint by making smaller acquisitions.

Reuters