Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 12 News List

SinoPac Holdings eyeing regional rivals

EXPANSION The financial firm said it would consider buying Chinese or foreign banks in the region, hoping to boost the contributions of overseas branches to its bottom line

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an attempt to expand its regional presence, SinoPac Holdings (永豐金控), the nation's ninth biggest financial group by assets, is looking to buy foreign rivals in the Asia-Pacific region next year, the company said yesterday.

"We hope to inaugurate another wave of regional expansion next year, possibly through acquisition of foreign banks in neighboring markets like Vietnam," SinoPac chief executive officer Paul Lo (盧正昕) said yesterday.

The company would buy Chin-ese banks or set up a wholly owned subsidiary as soon as the government lifts cross-strait bans on financial institutions, Lo said.

There are no potential targets or ongoing talks at the moment yet, the executive said.

Lo made the remarks on the sidelines of a ceremony yesterday, in which the company unveiled a new corporate identification logo and celebrated the completion of the integration of its two banking units, International Bank of Taipei (台北國際商銀) and Bank SinoPac (建華銀行).

The merged entity was officially renamed in Mandarin (永豐銀行), while retaining the English name Bank SinoPac.

The banking arm, which has more than NT$50 billion (US$1.5 billion) in capitalization, plans to reduce its capital next year and put the money at the parent company's disposal, SinoPac's spokesman Richard Chang (張立荃) said.

"The money may be used for acquisition," Chang said, adding that otherwise the money could be used for share buyback.

The amount of capital reduction awaited careful calculation, Chang said, declining to give any figure.

SinoPac has been focusing on overseas banking markets in recent years, having branches in places like Los Angeles and Hong Kong, representative offices in China and Vietnam, and a 100 percent owned US subsidiary Far East Capital Corp.

SinoPac hopes to boost earnings contribution from its overseas operations to some 45 percent of total profits in 2008 from the current 36 percent, Bank SinoPac president Angus Chen (陳柏蒼) said.

The bank said it hoped to obtain approval before the end of the year or the first quarter of next year to establish a branch in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Despite expansion ambitions, SinoPac is unlikely to meet its earnings target of NT$10 billion this year, due to worse-than-expected bad unsecured loans.

The company will decide whether to make more reserves to cover bad consumer debts on Friday on top of existing provisioning costs exceeding NT$5.4 billion, Chang said.

For the first 10 months of this year, SinoPac generated NT$4.7 billion in net profits, or NT$0.66 per share.

Shares of SinoPac closed down 0.29 percent at NT$17.05 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday.

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