Woori in takeover talks for overseas expansion

January 10, 2012 11:49 pm 

SEOUL, Jan. 10 — Woori Finance Holdings Co. is mulling acquiring three overseas financial firms, its chief said Tuesday, a move that is expected to fuel South Korea's top banking group's global expansion drive.

"There are two merger and acquisition (M&A) talks going on in Southeast Asia, with one proceeding smoothly," Woori Finance Chairman Lee Pal-seung told reporters at a charity event.

Woori is also eyeing an M&A deal to secure a financial firm located "between Asia and Europe," he added.

Lee's remarks came as local banking groups are stepping up efforts to generate new profit sources and boost global presence in a bid to overcome the domestic market's high saturation.

Shinhan Financial Group Co., Woori's rival and the country's No. 3 banking group, is also in talks to take over an Indonesian lender in a bid to bolster its network in Asia.

Meanwhile, the Woori chief hinted at raising stock dividends for shareholders.

"Last year, we paid 250 won (US$ 0.22) per share. It would be better if (this year's dividend payment) is bigger," Lee said. He said the financial group is mulling over the amount, given the bank's relatively low capital adequacy ratio and government stake.

The state-owned financial group posted a solid performance last year. In the January-September period, Woori's net income surged 47.1 percent on-year to 1.8 trillion, raising views its earnings for the whole year will likely top 2 trillion won.

Lee said he was looking forward to the privatization of Woori but was not sure what would be the best way to go about this.

The government's efforts to sell the state-run banking group fell through last year due to public criticism and lack of investor interest.

Earlier this month, Financial Services Commission Chairman Kim Seok-dong said the financial watchdog would push to resume Woori Finance's privatization for the sake of the group and the local finance industry. (PNA/Yonhap) DCT/eds


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