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SC to continue to invest in Korea

Standard Chartered First Bank pays first dividend


British banking giant Standard Chartered Plc will continue to invest in Korea, its head said Thursday, dismissing speculation that planned closures of some of its branches here may indicate retreats in its investment.

“Our business here in Korea is the core part of growth,” Peter Sands, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered, said at a press conference.

The London-based bank, which generates more than four-fifths of its profit in Asia and other emerging markets, said it was confident of further progress in Asia’s No. 4 economy, promising to help Korean companies trade and invest in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

“We are completely committed to the Korean market.”

Standard Chartered made a foray into the Korean market in 2005 by buying Korea First Bank in April 2005 for 3.4 trillion won ($3.12 billion), the largest-ever takeover by the British banking group.

The group has invested about 5 trillion won in the Korean market, including the spending on the acquisition, over the past six years.

Korea is now its second-biggest market.

Standard Chartered First Bank plans to close 27 of its 418 branches as it restructures its network amid growth in internet and mobile banking services.
Peter Sands
Peter Sands
Richard Hill
Richard Hill

“We are constantly reshaping our branch network in all our markets ... depending upon the way the population and economy moves.” Sands said.

The bank plans to test mini-branches, as used in India, in an effort to meet fast-changing customer needs.

Sands added that the bank had no plans to move its London headquarters, saying it would be a big distraction for shareholders and to creating shareholder value.

Profit at Standard Chartered climbed 19 percent in 2010, and the bank said it made a record start to this year with strong growth in Asian markets.

“We have grown quite rapidly and we have done so in a very deliberate way,” Sands said, adding that pre-tax annual profit had jumped six-fold to $6 billion over the past 10 years.

SC First Bank has paid out the first yearly dividend worth 100 billion won to its parent group in 2010.

“We will have an appropriate level of dividend each year for shareholders from now on,” said SC First Bank chief executive Richard Hill.

Touching on takeover moves of ailing savings banks, Sands said the group’s current strategy in the Korean market is to focus on organic growth.

(From news reports )
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