RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, Malaysia

Hong Leong seeks M&A in emerging markets

The lender seeks growth opportunities abroad as banking competition increases in Malaysia.

Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd. (HLFG), the Malaysian banking and insurance group controlled by billionaire Quek Leng Chan, is seeking acquisitions in emerging markets as it aims to triple its assets and profits in five years.

The group, which has a 20 percent stake in China’s Bank of Chengdu Co. and a banking license in Vietnam, is looking for targets in countries including Thailand and Indonesia, Chief Executive Officer Raymond Choong, 55, said in an interview last week. The Kuala Lumpur-based firm may also buy brokerages in Malaysia, he said.

“The global market is now a borderless world,” Choong said. “Being very successful in Malaysia doesn’t make you an important player. China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are markets with high potential where we excel.”
Hong Leong is expanding abroad as competition increases in its domestic market with the central bank granting more licenses to international lenders including Bank of China Ltd. Its banking unit, Hong Leong Bank Bhd. (HLBK), completed a $1.7 billion takeover of domestic rival EON Capital Bhd. (EON) in May, enabling it to overtake RHB Capital Bhd. as the nation’s fourth-biggest bank.

Hong Leong Financial shares have climbed 52 percent this year, and Hong Leong Bank rose 49 percent, making them the biggest gainers on the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBMKLCI) Index.

View the full story in Bloomberg.

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