Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Taiwan Cooperative Bank looking to diversify

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

State-controlled Taiwan Coopera-tive Bank (合作金庫銀行) may form a strategic alliance with a foreign partner to diversify its product portfolio, chairman Sean Chen (陳沖) said yesterday.

"We might consider such an alliance if an ideal partner comes up ? many foreign financial institutions have approached and talked to us about this," Chen said on the sidelines of a celebration yesterday to mark its acquisition of smaller rival the Farmers Bank of China (農民銀行), another state-run bank.

Chen refused to elaborate, but said such a cooperation strategy would be aimed at developing non-traditional products, such as wealth management.

Taiwan Cooperative currently operates four flagship outlets nationwide that offer wealth management to well-heeled customers. The bank plans to expand this business segment to 20 outlets by the end of the year, he said.

Chen said the bank would increase provision expenses to cover losses incurred from its absorption of Farmers Bank. He declined to detail the figures.

As part of the government's second-stage financial reform, Taiwan Cooperative announced last November its plans to take over Farmers Bank, the nation's No. 14 lender.

The merger, which was conducted through a full share swap of one Taiwan Cooperative share in exchange for 2.45 Farmers Bank shares, took effect on May 1.

The merger allowed Taiwan Cooperative to replace Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行) as the nation's largest lender with assets of NT$2.57 trillion (US$81.7 billion), or a 10 percent market share.

Chen put the two banks' combined number of branches at 296 nationwide.

He added that Taiwan Coop-erative was not in a rush to further expand its network, although it still had about 30 licenses for branch expansion.

The celebration yesterday also marked the changeover in management, with Wu Fan-chi (吳繁治), formerly a vice president at the Bank of Taiwan, taking over as president.

Taiwan Cooperative's former president Soo Jin-fong (蘇金豐) is moving on to a new post as chairman of Taiwan Business Bank (台灣中小企銀) today.

Taiwan Cooperative reported a pre-audited pre-tax profit of NT$878 million last month. Cumulative pre-tax profit for the first four months of the year reached NT$2.64 billion. Net profit during the same period totaled NT$2.5 billion, which translates into earnings per share of NT$0.9.

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