RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, Korea

Woori targets topping rivals via Hanmi Financial deal

Deal aimed to help Woori secure position and raise awareness among Americans.

Woori Financial Group is likely to grab the superior position in a close rivalry with KB Financial Group to take the No. 1 position among local finance holding firms.

The scenario that Woori will become the biggest financial group in total assets is feasible in the near future as its scheduled takeover of Hanmi Financial Corp., headquartered in Los Angeles, might possibly be completed by the year-end.

Hanmi Financial Corp., whose assets hover around $3 billion (3.53 trillion won), controls Hanmi Bank which serves Korean-American and multi-ethnic communities in California.

Woori and KB have recently repeated turnovers in the asset ranking, while the latter is regarded as the steady No. 1 over the past few years.

Last June, Woori overtook KB with an asset amount gap of 4 trillion won ($3.41 billion) -- 331 trillion ($282,41 billion) won versus 327 trillion won ($279 billion)-- after surrendering first place to KB in March with the slight disparity of 200 billion won. At the end of 2009, Woori beat KB with a gap of 1.9 trillion won ($1,62 billion) in total assets.

Though the asset scale of Hanmi Financial is small, the planned acquisition of the 3 trillion ($2.55 billion) won-scale group could help Woori in securing the symbolic No. 1 position and raising awareness among Americans.

View the full story in Korea Herald.

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