Bloomberg News

ABN Restarts Hong Kong Commercial Banking in Asia Expansion

December 15, 2011

(Updates with chairman’s comment on international growth in fifth paragraph)

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- ABN Amro Group NV, the Dutch lender nationalized in 2008, reopened a commercial banking unit in Hong Kong to win back some of the international presence lost after its takeover, breakup and government rescue.

The Hong Kong unit, staffed by two bankers, provides payment services, loans and trade and treasury services to Dutch clients with operations in the area, said Jeroen van Maarschalkerweerd, a spokesman for the Amsterdam-based firm. The bank also won regulatory approval to open a representative office in Shanghai for its energy, commodity and transportation unit, it said in a statement.

Chairman Gerrit Zalm has said he will limit expansion outside the Netherlands to activities in which his bank can rank among the top. The firm in October announced plans to open offices in the U.S., Russia and China to expand the energy, commodities and transportation unit and has said it wants to double its current team of about 100 private bankers in Asia to expand assets under management in the region.

“This targeted expansion is consistent with our dual international strategy of building the global franchises of our ECT, private banking and clearing businesses, while also supporting the activities of our Dutch clients around the world,” Zalm said in a statement today.

Beyond the Netherlands

At a media briefing in Singapore today, he said the bank wants to cut the Netherlands’ contribution to revenue, headcount and assets to less than the current 80 percent, while boosting staff, assets and revenue overseas.

ABN, which says it’s the biggest lender to the cocoa industry, expects its recently approved Shanghai representative office to be operational in the first quarter of 2012, it said in the statement.

The lender is also studying a plan to expand the bank’s equities, futures and options clearing business in India, Maaike Steinebach, who heads the bank’s energy, commodities and transportation unit in Asia said at the briefing.

The Netherlands bought Fortis’s Dutch banking and insurance units and its stake in ABN Amro Holding NV for 16.8 billion euros ($21.8 billion) in 2008 after the company, now named Ageas, ran out of short-term funding.

Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager has said he plans to sell ABN Amro shares in 2014 at the earliest, preferably through a stock-exchange listing.

“Nobody knows how the world will look like in 2014. If 2014 would look the same as 2011, it certainly won’t be the year to launch the initial public offering,” said Zalm, citing low valuation of European bank shares.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Spain’s Banco Santander SA and Fortis bought ABN Amro in 2007 for about 72 billion euros in the world’s biggest banking takeover.

--With assistance from Sanat Vallikappen in Singapore. Editors: Frank Connelly, Jacqueline Simmons

To contact the reporter on this story: Maud van Gaal in Amsterdam at mvangaal@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net


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