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Metrobank eyes more branches to boost China presence

MANILA, Philippines - Local banking giant Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) is looking at boosting its presence in China with 20 additional branches over the next five years, top bank executives said.

Metrobank presently operates four offices in China: its regional office in Nanjing, two full bank branches in Shanghai, and a representative office in Beijing.

Metrobank executive vice president and head of treasury group Fernand Anton Tansingco said the branches would likely be located in key cities as Xiamen, Guanzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing.

China’s rapidly expanding economy - which vaulted past Japan to become the world’s second biggest last year - is a key consideration for the universal bank’s decision to expand its regional presence.

At the same time, the weakening of the developed economies in the eurozone, Japan and the United States is likewise affecting the economies of the Asian region, including the Philippines.

“It (China) is already one of the country’s biggest trading partner and it only makes sense for the Philippines and Metrobank to increase our presence,” said Francisco Sebastian, Metrobank vice chairman and president of its investment house First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC).

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He said over the long term, increased relations with China will improve the trade markets of the Philippines.

Sebastian said Metrobank’s expansion in China will focus on several markets.

“Metrobank has a firm foothold in China - it caters to the banking needs of the Chinese market, facilitates trade between China and the Philippines, facilitates the remittance market for the Philippines, and remittances from the overseas Chinese,” Sebastian said.

On the domestic front, Metrobank is targeting to open 30 more branches outside Metro Manila this year. Its combined branch network stood at 747 at the end of 2010.

Meanwhile, the bank is looking at a loan growth of 12 percent this year, or double the projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the Philippine economy of 5.5 percent.

The bank officials said they are also looking to actively participate in the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects of the Aquino administration, especially on the infrastructure side.

Recently, Metrobank raised P10 billion from a stock rights offer which would be used to generate or accommodate more loans, feed its domestic expansion program, and serve as possible back-up capital in relation to new requirements based on the Basel III capital framework.

The rights offer improved further its capital adequacy ratio (CAR) from 16 percent to 17.8 percent. Its Tier 1 capital remained at 13 percent.

Last year, Metrobank likely posted a net income of between P7.8 billion to P8.5 billion.

In the first nine months of 2010, the bank officially reported a net income of P6 billion, equaling earning for the whole of 2009.

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