Barclays Private Bank Asia Attracts Interest From Various Bidders

Barclays Bank in Singapore (Picture: Shutterstock)

Barclays Bank in Singapore (Picture: Shutterstock)

The number of banks interested in acquiring the Asian private-banking business of Barclays is increasing by the day.

It is only days since it became public knowledge that Barclays intends to sell the private-banking division in Asia. The British banking giant needs to improve its profitability and thus plans to cut its costs. Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley has hired Lazard investment bank to find a buyer for the unit as «Reuters» news agency reported on Friday.

Already, the list of interested banks is impressive. Apart from the usual suspects such as Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, banks who seem to be mentioned in most takeover bidding war, some unusual players have entered the ring as research by in Singapore showed.

DBS Bank

One of the banks to have shown an interest in Barclays' Asian unit is DBS Bank, the Singapore-based company. The 36 billion francs in assets under management of Barclays in the region would fit snugly with the bank from the city-state. Two years ago, it bought the Asian private-banking unit of Société Générale.

Sources in the industry said that DBS was then chosen as buyer despite not having tabled the highest bid. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) according to this interpretation impressed on the seller the importance of a local solution.

These rumours will never be officially confirmed, but it doesn't surprise that DBS has high hopes of again being picked as buyer.

EFG International

EFG International, the Swiss private bank with Greek owners, is also interested in the Barclays business, sources in Singapore also said. The addition of Barclays' assets under management wouldn't seem to suffice for EFG to reach the necessary critical mass for a long-term profitable business. But the 36 billion on offer nevertheless would go a long way.

EFG has already been named as a frontrunner in the bidding war for BSI, the Swiss private-banking unit of BTG Pactual. The «Financial Times» said that EFG offered $1.2 billion for the unit, which is based in the Ticino region of Switzerland. With EFG's 18 billion francs in assets under management, the two institutions combined would muster a total of 33 billion.

The growth strategy pursued by EFG is the brain child of CEO Joachim Straehle. The former boss of Bank Sarasin in spring of last year was hired to take EFG into the league of top wealth managers. It is possible that EFG is currently trying to acquire several banks in the hope of landing at least one as it tries to turn strategy into reality.


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