OCBC Sets Target to Double Profit in China's Greater Bay Area

(Bloomberg) -- Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. aims to double profit from China’s Greater Bay Area, the latest move by the Singaporean lender to expand in the growing region around the southern province of Guangdong.

Chief Executive Officer Samuel Tsien aims to generate S$1 billion ($740 million) of pretax profit in the area encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and nearby mainland cities by 2023, up from S$500 million in 2017. He plans to boost technology spending and staff in the region.

“This will be a new economic region of which there will be focused attention from both the public sector and the private sector,” Tsien said at a briefing in Hong Kong Thursday. “It’s now become an increasingly important focused area for OCBC as we develop this.”

Foreign banks are expanding their presence in China as policy makers develop the Greater Bay Area and loosen ownership rules. The nation is planning to boost economic output of the region to beyond that of greater Tokyo, New York and San Francisco by 2030 with factory upgrades and hubs for innovation, finance, shipping and trade.

Increase Headcount

OCBC, Southeast Asia’s second-largest bank, will invest S$200 million in the area over the next five years, including boosting headcount by 40 percent to more than 4,200.

HSBC Holdings Plc, which unveiled its pivot-to-Asia strategy in 2015, has been investing tens of billions of dollars in China’s Pearl River Delta region, which is part of the Greater Bay Area, to boost its retail and corporate banking presence there.

OCBC acquired Hong Kong’s Wing Hang Bank Ltd. in 2014 to gain more access to Chinese companies that are expanding in Southeast Asia. The firm had S$35 billion of outstanding customer loans in the Greater Bay Area in 2017 and expects the balance to grow 15 percent annually through 2023, Tsien said. It’s assessing ways to expand its China private wealth and fund management businesses, he said.

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