RETAIL BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, Korea

KB Financial shows interest on Woori

KB Kookmin Bank President Min Byung-duk reportedly met with the bank’s labor union and proposed making a bid for Woori if the employees are also in favor.

But KB Financial Group has stressed that it has not been interested in pursuing Woori FinancialGroup, claiming that its large size would be a major financial burden. The group’s chairman, Euh Yoon-dae, said that since his main priority is maximizing shareholders’ interest and value, the main goal of KB Financial Group is to expand and enhance its nonbanking sector. KB has been negotiating with ING, the Dutch insurance conglomerate, to acquire its Korean operation this year.

Unlike in the past, the financial group and bank have not denied being interested in such a move at this juncture. KB said nothing has been decided yet.

A merging of the two would create a mammoth-size bank, which has long been the goal of the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration.

Woori, which has the government as its largest stakeholder, ranks as the nation’s largest financial group by asset at 403 trillion won or 348 billion. KB Financial Group has in excess of 369 trillion won.

Such a financial powerhouse would hold assets of 772.5 trillion won, more than 2,100 branches and nearly 37,000 employees.

It would far outstrip current domestic rivals, including Shinhan Financial Group and Hana Financial Group. Hana recently expanded by taking over Korea Exchange Bank and would place it among the top 40 banking institutions in the world.

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