Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 11 News List

French bank BNP Paribas opens outlet in Kaohsiung

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BNP Paribas SA, France's biggest bank, opened a wealth-management branch in Kaohsiung yesterday. It already has a branch in Taipei.

Claude Haberer, chief executive of BNP Paribas' private bank business in Hong Kong and North Asia, said assets under its management in Taiwan, the amount of which he would not disclose, have grown more than 20 percent annually.

"We estimated that the high net-worth market grows by 12 to 15 percent a year in Asia," Haberer said. "In Taiwan, it is at least double that pace."

BNP Paribas manages more than US$15 billion in assets for its clients in "Greater China," according to a company statement. Hong Kong accounts for the largest part of the total, followed by Taiwan, then China, Haberer said.

BNP Paribas is the second-largest provider of private banking services in Taiwan after UBS AG. The French bank is competing against foreign banks including Citigroup Inc and Standard Chartered Plc, as well as Taiwanese banks such as Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控), to sell products such as mutual funds and insurance policies to the nation's rich. Taiwan has a private wealth pool estimated at US$1.2 trillion.

To increase its presence in Taiwan, BNP Paribas signed an agreement with Taiwan Cooperative Bank (合作金庫銀行) on Dec. 1 to form an asset-management venture and to jointly sell insurance through bank branches.

On June 1, the French lender and Taiwan Cooperative, the nation's second-largest lender by assets, also agreed to jointly purchase the Taipei-based Sunrise Asset Management Co (台陽投信) for NT$318 million (US$9.63 million).

While both Citigroup and Standard Chartered have recently acquired local lenders to raise their influence, BNP Paribas said it sees "no need" to buy a stake in Taiwan Cooperative because an existing strategic alliance is enough to help it develop a wealth management business in this country.

"Right now there is no good reason why we should do it. There is enough trust and commitment for the time being," said Laurent de Meyere, BNP Paribas Taiwan's country manager.

Jean-Louis Tourne, managing director of wealth management at BNP Paribas Taiwan, said the bank did not plan to develop retail banking in Taiwan for the moment.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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