Thu, Nov 02, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Coop Bank keen to extend BNP deal

WAIT AND SEE A company official said that it was interested in extending its strategic alliance with the leading European bank, but that no official plans were in the offing

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Cooperative Bank (合作金庫銀行), the second-biggest lender in Taiwan, may extend its strategic alliance with BNP Paribas, the largest bank in Europe, by forming joint ventures in the wealth management business in the future, the bank said yesterday.

"We do not rule out the possibility of forming joint ventures with them in the wealth management business," a Taiwan Cooperative's executive said during a telephone interview on condition of anonymity yesterday.

There is no official plan at the moment, the official said.

Since the two parties have just started selling products together, the partnership needs to progress step by step, the executive added.

The executive's remarks came as the Taiwanese bank yesterday rolled out a new mortgage life insurance product provided by Cardif Assurance Vie's Taiwan branch, the insurance arm of BNP Paribas.

BNP Paribas, known for its banking and insurance business and consumer credit lending, has set up two joint subsidiaries in South Korea's asset management and insurance sectors with Shinhan Financial Group, one of the country's top three financial groups.

In April, BNP Paribas acquired a 5.6 percent stake in Shinhan Financial, upping its holding to nearly 10 percent.

BNP Paribas will focus on investment banking and wealth management business in Taiwan and has no ambition to go into retail banking for the foreseeable future, Laurent de Meyere, country manager of BNP Paribas's Taipei branch, said on the sidelines of the event yesterday.

The French bank is always looking for business partnership with local banks in target markets to distribute their products, de Meyere said.

However, he declined to comment on whether the company had any plans for equity investment in Taiwan Cooperative.

BNP Paribas is long-rumored to have been in secret talks with Taiwan Cooperative to acquire an 8 percent to 10 percent stake in the local lender.

Taiwan Cooperative, in which the government controls a 42 percent holding, is seeking shareholder approval to lift its capitalization cap to NT$60 billion (US$1.8 billion) from the current NT$45 billion during the extraordinary general meeting scheduled for Dec. 22.

The bank's plan to sell 4.4 billion shares at NT$19.50 per share by the end of this year will bring its capitalization to the ceiling.

There is a possibility of more fundraising plans in the next year or so and "we welcome interested foreign investors to partake," the executive said.

Foreign investment can be seen as recognition of the bank's transparency and can also help raise the bank's profile in the international market, the official added.

Foreign banks have been rushing to buy local institutions this year, exemplified by Standard Chartered Bank's recent outright acquisition of Hsinchu International Bank (新竹國際商銀), as the consumer credit abuse storm depressed financial stocks.

Taiwan Cooperative shares closed 0.45 percent at NT$22.40 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday.

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