Tue, Mar 16, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Fubon expects 14% increase in earnings

BULLISH The company's chief financial officer said revenues should total NT$16 billion this year, providing a 10.8 percent return on equity and earnings per share of NT$2.17

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) said yesterday it plans to make NT$16 billion in after-tax earnings this year -- a 14 percent jump from last year's NT$14 billion.

"Our goal is to achieve earnings per share (EPS) of NT$2.17 with a 10.8 percent return on equity (ROE) in 2004," Fubon Financial chief financial officer Victor Kung (龔天行) told an investors' meeting.

Fubon Financial, the nation's second-biggest financial service company, achieved a NT$1.91 EPS and a 9.8 percent ROE last year, according to Kung.

After completing the acquisition of Hong Kong-based International Bank of Asia (IBA, 港基銀行) last week, Kung said yesterday that the financial-services company is still seeking merger partners to expand.

"To further maximize our number of branches, banks will be the major target," Kung told reporters. "However, we haven't ruled out any possibility of acquiring securities houses in the future."

Kung added that the company is keen on acquiring Sinopac Holdings Co (建華金控), although the smaller rival hasn't reached a final decision yet.

Kung lauded the company's recent achievements in gaining a 75.08 percent stake in IBA, which Fubon sees as a stepping stone to tap into greater Chinese markets.

According to Kung, China Everbright Ltd (中國光大控股) has agreed to sell its 20 percent stake in IBA last week at the same selling price of HK$3.68 (NT$16.1) per share when Fubon first offered to buy a 55 percent stake in the Hong Kong bank from Arab Banking Corp last September.

The 75 percent stake, therefore, cost Fubon NT$13.88 billion in total after the company promised Hong Kong financial authorities it would sell its extra 0.08 percent stake on the open market.

Hong Kong requires listed companies to release a minimum 25 percent stake to the open market according to Kung.

Kung said that Fubon Financial plans to take several steps within the next two years to facilitate the Hong Kong lender's role in greater China markets.

He said IBA isn't qualified yet to enjoy benefits from the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement since its assets fall below the US$6 billion threshold to be able to branch into China.

Also, it will take IBA another two years to apply for permission and to set up a liaison office in China before being allowed to open any branches there, he added.

Fubon will rebrand IBA within the next four to six months and incorporate it with the parent Fubon Financial, Kung said.

A Taiwan division will be established to tap Taiwan-related businesses such fund transfers and remittances as well as trade financing services to China-based Taiwanese businessmen, he said.

IBA is also studying plans to launch wealth management for corporate accounts. Kung said many China-based Taiwanese businessmen have made a fortune across the Strait but are in need of cash management services.

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