Citi sees strong growth in Taiwan business in 2008
By Faith Hung
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Citigroup <C.N> said on Saturday it sees strong growth in its Taiwan banking business in 2008 after it completed a $427 million acquisition of a local lender.
"Citi (in Taiwan) is poised for growth stronger than ever," Stephen Bird, chief executive of Citi's global consumer group in Asia Pacific, said at an event to mark the completion of the acquisition.
Citi paid about T$14 billion ($427 million) earlier this year to buy smaller local rival Bank of Overseas Chinese (BOOC), expanding its branch network to 66 from 11 on the island.
Private equity fund investors and major foreign banks have bought lenders in Taiwan -- the fourth-biggest banking market in Asia -- in part because banking stocks were among the cheapest in the region.
Standard Chartered Plc. <2888.HK> <STAN.L> bought Taiwan's Hsinchu International Bank for US$1.2 billion last year.
Taiwan also is Asia's No.3 wealth management market behind China and Japan, giving banks access to high net-worth individuals and increasing fee income.
"Year to date, our pre-tax profit was T$10 billion, more than the combined profits by all foreign banks in Taiwan," said Morris Li, chairman of Citibank Taiwan Ltd. "Next year is going to be very challenging, but we are optimistic 2008 will be much better than 2007."
Shares of Citi rose 3.13 percent on Wall Street on Friday, beating the 0.45 percent gain of Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Editing by Tomasz Janowski)