Country Awards 2014 write-ups: Day 2

Why FinanceAsia editors chose the award-winners. Day 2 covers Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.


Busan Bank

It is perhaps surprising to see a regional bank take this award, rather than a Hana, Kookmin or Shinhan. Comparing a Busan Bank to one of the majors is to compare apples to oranges. Or is it?

The big policy theme of Park Geun-hye, president of the Republic of Korea, is to support small- and medium-sized businesses. Her agenda is to level the playing field so these companies can flourish amidst the great chaebol, which tend to suck up the best resources, including talent, technology and capital.

It is a good year, therefore, to recognise a bank whose core business is SME lending. Busan Bank is the leader in SME business in Korea’s industrial south. It is notable that pitches by the national banks all emphasised their expansion into SME loans. Why not acknowledge a bank that has made this its focus? (SME lending comprises 67% of Busan Bank’s lending book).

Just giving Busan Bank the nod for lending to smaller companies isn’t enough, of course: its financials have to compete against the big players. Busan Bank does very well on that score. It boasts the best return on equity to shareholders among Korean banks, reporting W100 billion net profit in the first quarter of 2014. Its net interest margin has expanded to 2.55%. Its earnings outlook is stable and attractive.

Busan Bank’s future growth potential appears sound. The bank successfully bid to acquire another regional bank, Kyongnam Bank. The rights issue to raise acquisition finance will have only a modest impact on shareholders while the synergies look appealing (the two banks have little branch overlap). The deal is expected to finalise by the end of this year, cementing Busan Bank’s position as the leading regional player in Korea. At this point, according to bank officials, it will look to extend its SME lending activity to other parts of the country. It’s still not in the same league as the national providers, but for all of the above reasons, this regional player is Korea’s best bank.

Korea Exchange Bank

KEB’s reign continues. Despite the occasional challenge for this award from other banks, KEB powers ahead. It maintains a 47% market share. Yet bank officials stress they are not complacent about their position. KEB continues to provide new services and products. It is expanding its global network with new branches and subsidiaries. It is following its Korean corporate clients as their businesses become more international.

KEB’s pitch listed several product launches. Two deserve mention.

In November 2013, KEB introduced a foreign currency remittance service. This automates remittance payments by Korean expats working in places such as China, Mongolia and Vietnam, by establishing electronic routers to local banks in those markets.

Secondly, in March 2014, the bank launched RMB FX products based on CNH (Hong Kong offshore renminbi). These include foreign currency time deposits and money-market accounts, as well as letters of credit. Initially these services are targeted at companies, as individual remittances in RMB are not yet allowed by China. But KEB is laying the groundwork to offer RMB FX products to all business segments as the rules evolve.


Citi achieved the trifecta of dominating M&A, equity capital markets and debt capital markets in Korea. Of course, mastering Dealogic’s league tables is not by itself going to earn an award from FinanceAsia. But it’s a good start.

From there it’s a question of the quality, size and complexity of the transactions. Citi’s tombstones are just as interesting as those of its peers.

Its M&A clients included both domestic and foreign interests. Notably it advised government-owned Woori Financial Group on its complex sale of six subsidiaries, Korea’s biggest FIG deal in some time. Citi’s idea was to package these units, ensuring the least attractive assets could be sold at reasonable terms. In the end, the bank’s marketing ploy generated attractive valuations; one unit, an insurer, was even sold at a profit despite its negative equity position.

Citi also advised LG Chemicals on its acquisition of Nano H2O, the first M&A deal by LG Group in a decade. And it advised private equity houses Affinity and KKR to sell a joint stake in Oriental Brewery. In terms of dollar volume, only Deutsche Bank advised more M&A deals.

Citi was number one in the ECM and DCM league tables. In ECM, it participated in six block trades and two GDRs (for Hanwha Chemical and Industrial Bank of Korea; Citi pitched the idea to both clients). Only Goldman Sachs had a comparable record in ECM. The DCM market has been more vanilla for all of the global investment banks, with plenty of flow business from frequent issuers, so there were fewer points to compare among them. It was a case of quantity over quality: Citi served as a joint bookrunner for almost all deals. But the same is true of its main competitors. Perhaps next year the prize could go to the bank with more sole bookrunner caps across the capital markets.


Although Korea’s banking environment is stable, banks face adverse conditions. Regulation is increasing, interest rates remain low and consumer lending has slowed due to unsustainably high levels of household debt. Earned income among foreign banks has been challenged but Citi has continued to grow returns on assets and on equity (subject to certain measurements). It grew its net interest margin to 2.79% and boasts a healthy BIS capital ratio of 18.05%, with a 15.47% of Tier-1 capital ratio.

Citi has aggressively increased its corporate banking relationships. It is a competitor in syndicated loans and floating rate notes. During the period covered, it was lead manager in 12 large deals, with $494 million of transaction volume, compared to $329 million from the previous 12 months. Thanks to Citi’s global network, it can provide financing to Korean companies and their supply chains in over 100 countries.

It also has a robust business in foreign exchange, local capital markets, commodities and in credit; this last business, which provides credit derivatives and structured products to Korean counterparties, has about a 10% market share.




Public Bank has done it again, snapping up the Malaysian best bank award for a 16th consecutive year as it continues to differentiate itself from local competitors. Extending its strong financial track record after the successful implementation of new services and products, the financial institution continues to offer superior shareholder value.

Public Bank recorded a pretax profit of M$5.31 billion ($1.64 billion) in 2013, a 5.2% improvement on 2012. Net profit attributable to shareholders grew by 6.2% over the same period to M$4.06 billion.

Public Bank’s pretax return on average equity of 28.1% and pretax return on average assets of 1.8% last year were also above the banking industry’s average of 15.9% and 1.5%, respectively, according to the bank. In addition, the financial institution’s 0.7% cost-to-income ratio remained the lowest amongst Malaysian banking groups and is well below the industry’s average of 45.6%.

In order to further expand its market share, Public Bank continued to drive new product innovation, enhance service delivery and promote cross-selling activities.

In June 2013, Public Bank through its strategic alliance with AIA launched the PB-AIA Visa Co-Brand Gold Credit Card, offering customers cash rebates of up to 2% for AIA insurance premiums charged to the card and Unlimited Cash Megabonus of up to 0.6% for other retail purchases made using the card.

Also, a second fixed deposits campaign, the ‘PB Super FD Rates’, was launched from June 3 to September 30 last year. The campaign successfully captured M$1.30 billion of fixed deposits and M$324 of savings deposits.


CIMB, Malaysia’s second-largest lender and Southeast Asia’s fifth-largest lender by assets, has come a long way and in investment banking domestically has now managed to pip Maybank — its closest rival. This is also true in the foreign exchange space.

In terms of the league tables, CIMB came out on top for equities and debt with a market share of 27.8% and 32.6%, respectively, from June 1, 2013 to May 16, according to Dealogic data. The bank was also top of the secondary offerings league table, with completed deals valued at $2.5 billion or 70.6% of the total funds raised.

CIMB successfully led and marketed equity deals that raised a total of $4.1 billion — among which the largest was the $860 million initial public offering of UMW Oil & Gas Holdings followed by AirAsia X’s $330 million listing. The bank also played a leading role bringing to market innovative and landmark debt transactions, including the market’s first-ever Singapore dollar sukuk, or Islamic bond, which was by Khazanah, and Malaysia’s first-ever Basel III-compliant Tier 2 debt issue, by CIMB.

On the foreign exchange side, CIMB offers a diverse set of products that include both conventional and Islamic products in the plain vanilla as well as structured products space. The bank’s forex spot trading flow generated M$935.03 billion ($288.59 billion) worth of activity June 1, 2013 to May 16, an increase of 18% year-on-year, and its market share has expanded to 14% from 12% previously.

All these various factors reinforces CIMB’s strength as Malaysia best investment bank.


Maybank Kim Eng’s transformational journey began a few years ago after Maybank Investment Bank’s acquisition of Kim Eng in 2011. The brokerage not only grew market share but also improved its equities business tremendously, making it worthy of our award for Malaysia’s Best Broker of the year.

One of the key components of the success of the Maybank Investment Bank equities transformation lies with the retail franchise, which was fragmented and under-owned before 2011. Through the acquisition of Kim Eng, its operations in Thailand and Singapore were infused into the Malaysian retail business through a structured and systematic programme.

Technology-wise Maybank Kim Eng is making huge milestones. Market Insight, a recently launched research service that keeps retail clients updated on market news and provides risk-adjusted stock recommendations, is now available on the institution’s mobile trading platform, m2u.

Thanks to such innovations and its parent bank’s regional network and 400-plus branches in Malaysia, that puts the brokerage in pole position to benefit as Asean, which is home to more than 600 million people, continues to integrate. The region is expected to grow by 5.4% annually between 2014 and 2018, compared to 4% globally, according to the OECD.

Maybank Kim Eng is undoubtedly here to stay for the long-run.


It was a close call between Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs for this award but there are numerous reasons why the former deserves it more and has finally managed — after several attempts — to knock the latter off the top in a few categories.

For starters, Credit Suisse has been the most active foreign investment bank for the stipulated period, being the only financial institution that participated as a joint global coordinator for three of the largest Malaysian IPOs in 2013 — UMW’s $862 million, Westports’ $686 million and AirAsia X’s $355 million IPOs despite lacklustre equity market environment.

In terms of placements, Credit Suisse was the only foreign bank that acted as joint bookrunner on both of the largest deals, Malaysia Airports’ $299 million and CIMB’s $1.1 billion primary placements. All these landmark deals not only put the financial institution on the pedestal in the ECM space, they are also reaffirmation of its 19-year history in the Southeast Asian nation.

According to Dealogic, Credit Suisse accounts for 55.23% of market share in the ECM space, bigger even than the usually dominant local investment banks such as CIMB (54.33%) and Maybank (40.68%).

And although Goldman Sachs tops the announced and completed M&A chart, according to Dealogic data, the Swiss bank nonetheless possesses the largest wallet in terms of revenue generated.

Clearly, Credit Suisse is a strong contender that is likely to remain in the Malaysian banking space for the foreseeable future.


HSBC continues to be the foreign bank with the widest branch and delivery network offering a range of products to its target audience. The financial institution had 68 Malaysian branches — 42 conventional and 26 Islamic — nationwide and 25 offsite ATMs at the end of last year.

With a pretax profit of M$1.33 billion last year, HSBC is one of the stronger financial institutions among foreign banks in Malaysia. UOB booked M$1.3 billion, while OCBC logged M$1.11 billion and Citi M$717 million.

In-line with Malaysia’s aspiration to become a cashless society by 2020, HSBC has been actively promoting electronic payments amongst its corporate customers. For example, HSBC Malaysia has become the first foreign global bank to go live on the Financial Process Exchange (FPX), which is a system that allows consumers to directly debit their bank accounts when making online purchases.

Additionally, HSBC continues to be the dominant provider in wealth products in terms of activity and volume. The bank is actively offering structured investment linked to equity indices and sector indices, as these products provide better coupon rates. Other product solutions include Dual Currency Investment, FX- and rates-linked, and fixed income products which are actively being offered to fulfill investors’ unique wealth needs.

Such dominance is also applicable in the global trade and receivables finance business where HSBC’s global footprint enabled the bank to access 77% of world trade with seven trade centres covering Malaysia. Meanwhile, the institution’s launch of HSBC Global Connections enables its customers to explore current and future insights into world trade via trade forecast reports and country guides.




BDO Unibank maintains its position as the Philippines’ largest bank in terms of gross customer loans, total deposits and assets under management. It recorded its highest earnings ever in 2013 and continues to expand at a robust pace.

The past 12 months have been characterised by a boost in business lending and project finance, leading to loan growth of 19% versus an industry average of 16%. Our judges particularly like the bank’s financing of power and energy-related projects, which aim to help the country solve its looming power crisis, including term-loan facilities for Palm Concepcion Power, SMC PowerGen, Therma South, Minergy Coal and Pagbilao Energy.

The bank continues to follow conservative underwriting standards, which helped to bring down its gross non-performing loan ratio to 1.6% in 2013 from 2.8% in 2012 and a high of 7% in 2007.

Another 60 branches were added over 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, bringing the total number of branches to 823. The bank completed the acquisition of Citibank Savings in March this year, boosting its customer reach.

BDO also opened a Singapore representative office, adding to its existing international offices in North America, Europe and the Middle East. The Singapore office will act as a hub for BDO’s Asean push.

In addition, BDO wins our Best Foreign Exchange Bank category for continuing to top all other competitors in the USD/peso spot and forward markets.

BDO Capital

Excelling across all disciplines and fending off strong competition from other conglomerate-owned banks, BDO Capital is the pre-eminent local investment bank in the Philippines.

According to Dealogic, the bank was bookrunner on 11 key debt capital markets transactions during the judging period, and three equity transactions.

The standout debt deals for the year were Ps150 billion ($3.4 billion) in retail treasury bonds issued by the Republic of the Philippines – the first public offering by the government under an investment grade banner – and corporate bonds for Ayala Land, Filinvest, JG Summit, PLDT and San Miguel. While on the equity side, our judges liked BDO Capital’s lead domestic underwriter role on the $411 million initial public offering for integrated gaming company Travellers International and its joint lead manager role on the Ps3.15-billion share sale by canned food manufacturer Century Pacific Foods.

One of the keys to BDO’s success is its flat organisational structure, which makes decision-making faster. Deal originators report directly to the bank’s president Ed Francisco, who acts as deal manager while overseeing day-to-day operations. The bank’s ability to capture major deals in the market through its parent bank’s relationship managers gives it an edge over others.

BPI Capital

BPI Capital has lifted its game significantly in equity capital markets. Under the leadership of president Dennis Montecillo and head of equity capital markets Reggie Cariaso (former executives of Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, respectively), BPI Capital is building a multifaceted boutique investment bank that is ready to underwrite benchmark transactions.

While it is yet to prove its mettle as an arranger of large-scale IPOs that are marketed internationally, its ability to raise domestic equity for clients is well established. Much of its best work in the past 12 months has been done for parent company Ayala and its subsidiaries, including a sizeable Ps10 billion preferred share deal and a $300 million exchange bond.

In February this year it acted as sole global coordinator and joint bookrunner on a Ps25 billion rights issue for Bank of the Philippine Islands. Meanwhile, the bank’s IPO scorecard contains a Ps3.15 billion public offering for Century Pacific Food, a producer of canned foods. The deal was executed on a tight timetable of only four months and was 3.5 times oversubscribed.

For the period covered, these transactions helped to put BPI Capital ahead of all other domestic investment banks on Dealogic’s Equity Capital Markets table.

First Metro Investment

From June last year to May this year, First Metro raised a total of $557 million in bonds from eight transactions, according to figures supplied by Dealogic.

Aside from acting as lead issue manager on bond deals for the government, First Metro exceled in arranging bond transactions for the country’s top companies. During the period it led fixed-rate corporate bond deals for JG Summit (Ps30 billion), Aboitiz Equity Ventures (Ps8 billion), and Meralco (Ps18.5 billion) and fixed-rate retail bond offerings for PLDT (Ps15 billion) and Rockwell Land Corp (Ps5 billion).

The Meralco and Rockwell deals were maiden transactions, while the JG Summit deal was the largest corporate bond in the Philippines since 2009. Providing testimony to the depth of the market, it received total orders of Ps32.2 billion, or 1.6 times over the base size of Ps20 billion, allowing it to price at the bottom of its spread range.

First Metro’s long-standing position as a top debt arranger is underpinned by its skill in structuring terms and conditions, securing necessary approvals, formulating marketing and selling strategies, and distributing to a broad range of investors.


Practiced at riding market cycles, UBS executed a number of important transactions in the Philippines capital markets this year despite softer overall conditions.

It retains this award as Best Foreign Investment Bank in the Philippines for two standout merger & acquisition deals and a strong ECM line-up. In M&A, country head Lauro Baja and his small team acted as lead adviser to Apollo Global Management in its $392 million sale to SM Investments, and then partnered GIC with Ayala to acquire a $650 million stake in Bank of the Philippine Islands from DBS.

On the equity side, UBS raised $618 million for clients through six deals, representing about 20% of the market.

Aside from IPOs for Travellers International ($411 million) and Robinsons Retail ($650 million), UBS was sole global coordinator on a $204 million IPO for property company 8990 Holdings in April. The deal attracted the first-ever investments by Khazanah and TPG in the Philippines and was only the second transaction in the country to have a formal cornerstone tranche.

Where it can, UBS likes to act as sole bookrunner or sole financial adviser. The strategy gives it 100% of the fees and allows the bank to build trusting relationships with clients.


Citi’s hold over its position as the largest and most inventive foreign commercial bank in the Philippines remains steadfast. While the core of its strength is in its ability to bank the activities of more than 800 multinational clients, it continues to make headway in adding new domestic clients and innovating with helpful treasury and card products.

Over the past 12 months Citi has made a concerted effort to capture clients in the public sector and was awarded a two-year contract by the Philippine government to launch a cashless purchase card system for two agencies – the Department of National Defence and the Department of Budget and Management. Following this launch other government agencies will be added to the rollout.

Citi saw a 58% increase in its supply-chain finance business over the period and a 14% rise in overall commercial foreign exchange volumes. At the same time, it continues to extend its lending and underwriting capabilities beyond traditional loans to structured capital markets transactions. There are few lenders in the market with the same appetite for large-scale bridging finance and hedging solutions.

Citi also continues to invest heavily in technology, adding enhancements to its online FX trading platform and launching new Citi Interactive Solutions software that allows clients to simulate working capital solutions.




DBS continues to collect awards after dominating for another year.

The bank maintained its profitability under difficult circumstances, effectively de-coupling its earnings from the interest rate cycle. DBS recorded a net profit of S$3.5 billion (US$2.8 billion) in the 2013 financial year, which was down slightly on the previous year’s profit of S$3.8 billion but surpassed its local peers and was the Singapore banking sector’s highest net profit of the year. And in the first quarter 2014 the bank reported a net profit of S$1 billion, which was 29% higher than the previous quarter and a new quarterly record.

DBS’ consumer banking unit also had a strong year, with total income rising 10% over the prior year to S$2.54 billion, hitting this level for the first time since 2009.

DBS made big strides expanding its overseas operations and reaching out to new markets. In China, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange made it an official market maker for offshore renminbi traded against both the US and Singapore dollars on both a spot and forward basis.

It was also one of the first batch of foreign banks to win approval to sell domestic unit trusts in China and in the second half of the year, DBS was one of two foreign banks who received approval to open a sub-branch in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

Separately, DBS was among the first foreign banks to apply for a license to begin operations in Myanmar.

While rivals UOB and OCBC also have a strong presence in debt, DBS is now recognised as a one-stop shop for debt financing in Singapore and the region and was involved in every perpetual bond transaction during the period in question, as well as a number of marquee deals from both local and foreign borrowers. This includes Singapore Airlines' S$200 million seven-year fixed rate note, water solutions company Hyflux's S$300 million perpetual note, and Trafigura's S$200 million perpetual note, the former two with DBS as sole bookrunner.

In ECM, DBS was involved in the largest equity deals in Singapore, leading or joint-leading a total of 13 equity sales, including six IPOs, one rights issue and six placements and preferential offerings. Combined, these equity issuances raised US$2.1 billion and account for 38% of US$5.5 billion raised in the Lion City for the period. The real estate investment trusts are an important feature in Singapore and DBS led some of last year's most important deals, including SPH Reit's S$504 million IPO, which was 42 times oversubscribed, and Soilbuild Business Space Reit's US$361 million IPO.

DBS's investment bank retains the award from last year due to its well-balanced business across equity, debt and M&A. It advised on some of last year's marquee deals, including Temasek's bid to increase its shareholding in Olam and Frasers Centrepoint (F&N) on the de-merger of its property business, FCL, from the food and beverage business.

On the foreign exchange front, DBS has the largest Singapore dollar trading book globally, and a strong Asian trading book as well. In Singapore it has roughly 50% of the total market share in Singapore dollar-related flows and among local banks has the largest foreign exchange derivatives team in Singapore, with 15 traders and structurers.

The bank's brokerage unit, DBS Vickers Securities, is one of the top five in Singapore based on trade volumes. Its institutional client-base is mostly overseas while its retail customers are predominately local. Already a major player in Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok, DBS is eying expansion in a number of other markets, including Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse has stood out from the competition in Singapore over the last year, working across a broad range of deals, including repeat business from local clients for several large transactions, including as sole bookrunner and coordinator.

As a result, Credit Suisse landed some of the city state’s largest mergers and acquisitions and was also the year’s leading equity capital market bookrunner by deal value, according to Dealogic.

Among the notable transactions it oversaw was CapitaLand’s US$2.5 billion acquisition of a 34.73% stake in CapitaMalls Asia in April. CapitaLand, Southeast Asia’s largest property developer, already owned 65% of the business. But in an effort to simplify the group’s organizational structure and enhance shareholder returns, the company decided to take CapitaMalls private.

A number of banks vied for this deal. But out of all the banks that handled its initial public offering in 2009, only Credit Suisse was selected to handle this M&A transaction from day one.

Also noteworthy was Temasek’s US$1.2 billion acquisition of commodity trading firm Olam International. Credit Suisse was the only foreign investment bank on the deal, which sent Olam’s stock surging almost over 60% from late January to mid-June.

Another highlight is the Changi Airport and Odebrecht’s US$8.2 billion pending acquisition of Galeao International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, timely as Galeao airport will host hundreds of thousands of tourists for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

M&A transactions aside, Credit Suisse was also the only foreign bank on SPH Reit’s $393 million IPO and handled two convertible bond issues for CapitaLand — one $520 million placement and a $638.5 million CB for which Credit Suisse acted as sole bookrunner.

In addition, Credit Suisse oversaw a few follow-ons for Temasek’s subsidiaries — a $184.8 million sell-down of shares in internet video site Youku Tudou and a $174.7 million block share trade in Seoul Semiconductor.

Not a big player in debt capital markets, Credit Suisse nevertheless participated in a landmark bond transaction. It jointly ran the book on United Overseas Bank’s US$800 million Basel III-compliant Tier-2 subordinated bond. The bond, with a tenor of 10.5 years and callable in 5.5 years, was Singapore’s and Southeast Asia’s first ever dollar-denominated Basel III-compliant transaction, and the first dollar benchmark note from the Lion City this year.


Citi recoups the award again this year as the US bank continued to expand its footprint in Singapore.

Citi led the competition when it came to providing a wide range of core banking services, including cash management and trade finance, to financial institutions, local companies, sovereign wealth funds, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the public sector.

The Lion City remains an essential hub for Citi’s state-of-the-art processing and data centres, handling the bank’s transactions across 17 Asian countries. It also acts as the command centre for monitoring the transactions of Citi’s customers in more than 60 countries.

Last year was a difficult banking environment amid rock-bottom interest rates and tightening fees but Citi experienced an increase in activity in some of its key businesses and for its suite of products.

Cross-border payments processed for Citi’s Singapore clients grew 7% year-on-year, totalling 21 million, while US deposits increased by 17% to US$9.1 billion and commercial card spend rose by 35% to US$23 million from US$17 million.

In addition, Citi made progress within its consumer banking unit by improving Citibank Express, which allows customers to conduct almost all of their banking needs without visiting a branch. In September, Citi introduced the instant cash rebate service, enabling customers to redeem their rebates by sending a text message and have it reflected in their accounts instantly.

Citi has also been ahead of the game as China continues to relax its renminbi trading regulations. After the bank’s first renminbi cross-border lending transaction in January 2013 — which helped a client lend excess cash in China out to their regional treasury in Singapore, before funding its group operations in Europe — Citi launched its renminbi two-way automated sweep solution.

Citi maintains that its Singapore operation will remain an important gateway for Chinese clients into Southeast Asia, and vice versa. It quickly rose to a top spot in local renminbi clearing, hitting Rmb46 billion (US$7.4 billion) in November and Rmb84 billion in December.

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