MONTREAL, Que. (12/30/10)--Quebec-based Desjardins Group, Canada's largest credit union, has taken steps to expand nationally throughout Canada with its $443 million acquisition of Western Financial, a bank and insurance company based in southern Alberta. Desjardins CEO Monique Leroux said the deal, announced Dec. 24, will kick-start its growth in Western Canada. So far, the $175 billion asset Desjardins' operations are located mostly in Quebec and southern Ontario, with a smaller number of branches in New Brunswick and Manitoba (The Globe and Mail Dec. 26). Western Financial, which began as a collection of insurance brokers in 1996, has 121 offices stretching from British Columbia to Manitoba, and 550,000 banking and investment customers. Its assets will allow Desjardins access to operations across most of Canada. Western Financial will keep its headquarters in High River, Alberta. The deal was approved by Western Financial's board of directors and is subject to approval of its shareholders. It is expected to be completed in second quarter of 2011. The acquisition includes a $10-million break fee and the assumption of $56 million in debt.