Wed, 30 Sep 2009
From: Reuters
By Saeed Azhar and Neil Chatterjee
SINGAPORE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Singapore's DBS (DBSM.SI: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to more than double its Indonesian branch network over the next three years and will look for acquisitions in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, its chairman said on Wednesday.

Koh Boon Hwee, who has been running the bank since the start of the year, said he does not expect wholesale changes in the bank's strategy when new CEO Piyush Gupta takes over from November, with the focus to stay on Asia.

"I don't think we will have a wholesale change in strategy," Koh told Reuters. Gupta was previously head of Citigroup's Southeast Asia and Pacific region.

DBS currently earns 90 percent of its revenues from Singapore and Hong Kong, but Koh said DBS hopes to have about 100 branches in Indonesia in three years, up from about 40 currently.

"We will continue to grow our franchise, if there are opportunities for inorganic growth we will always look at it," Koh said on the sidelines of a conference.

"It doesn't mean we will chase it -- banks get into a lot of trouble when they overpay," Koh said.

DBS is 28 percent owned by Singapore state investor Temasek [TEM.UL]. Temasek has faced Indonesian regulatory pressure on its subsidaries to divest or merge. Last year Temasek sold its majority stake in Bank Internasional Indonesia (BNII.JK: Quote, Profile, Research) to Malaysia's biggest lender Maybank (MBBM.KL: Quote, Profile, Research).

Koh said Indonesian policy had not affected growth because DBS had only one bank presence in the country.

"We have not been hampered in our branching activities. It's just that organic growth by definition is slow."

Koh said he was excited about prospects for growth in private banking in Asia, but declined to comment on a bid for ING's (ING.AS: Quote, Profile, Research) private banking business in Asia [ID:nSIN97619].

Singapore's banks have weathered the financial crisis relatively better than their global peers due to smaller exposure to toxic debt and higher capital reserves. Signs are emerging that loan growth is improving and defaults may have peaked as Asian economies recover from last year's slump, analysts say.

World leaders are trying to prevent a repeat of the crisis that last year drove the world financial system to the brink of collapse and the G20 on Friday urged tighter regulation of banks and higher capital requirements. [ID:nN2891276]

Koh said capital requirements would go up for banks and so return of equity (ROE) for the industry would fall.

"Any bank that gets a double-digit return will be doing well," he said. "Of course we always target double-digit ROE."



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