Tue, Feb 18, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Chinatrust announces stellar earnings for last year

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中國信託金控) posted net income of NT$11.8 billion last year, or NT$2.54 per share, the company's chairman said yesterday.

Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託商銀), one of the financial holding company's subsidiaries and the nation's largest credit-card issuer, reported earnings of NT$15.1 billion for last year, outshining all other local banks with 66 percent growth, Koo said.

"We expect our pre-tax profit to reach NT$19 billion in 2003," Chinatrust Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Koo (辜濂松) said yesterday.

To expand its economy of scale and add more branches, Koo further expressed his hope to complete merger plans with "one to two local healthy banks" by the end of the year.

But William Fong (方偉昌), an analyst with PrimAsia Securities Co, yesterday said that the company's merger plan with local banks may be difficult to achieve since "there are not too many good banks left."

Fong, therefore, added he is not optimistic about the plan since the company can only target second-tier banks and must be cautious about poor asset quality, which may deteriorate the company's performance.

Fong, however, praised the company's core consumer finance business, which he said "local banks will be hard pressed to challenge over the next few years."

The bank has put great effort into writing off bad loans last year. Chinatrust cut its non-performing loan ratio from 2.93 percent to 2.48 percent, as of last December, Koo said.

The holding company is also seeking a strategic partnership with European financial firms, said Lin Shiaw-pin (林孝平), the company's chief strategic officer.

They plan to sign an agreement within two weeks to form a joint venture with Colony Capital LLC to buy bad loans in Asia, said Steven Cheng (陳俊哲), Chinatrust's chief financial officer.

A strategic partnership with European firms may help strengthen the company's weakness in the insurance, securities and asset-management sectors, Fong said. The company is also planning to set up a branch office in Beijing since China approved its application, Koo said.

Chinatrust share rose 4.2 percent yesterday to close at NT$30.

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