Landsbanki opens Hong Kong regional office

The Icelandic bank becomes the first from its home country to establish an official presence in Hong Kong.
Generous supplies of Veuve Clicquot, raw shark, and dangerous shots were the order on Friday evening as the European bank, Landsbanki, threw a party at G-Bar to celebrate the opening of a representative office in Hong Kong.

The black-and-white, big-screen slideshow of hard-working fishermen and endless expanses of tree-free land showed off the beauty of the bankÆs homeland: Iceland.

And why not celebrate? Landsbanki is the first bank from Iceland to establish an official presence in Hong Kong.

ôItÆs important to be here. Maybe we should have gotten here earlier, but itÆs never too late,ö says Sigurj=n P -rnason, the group managing director and CEO for Landsbanki.

Landsbanki bills itself as a leading force in promoting IcelandÆs economic progress since its inception in 1886. It is a full-service commercial bank, with a market share in Iceland of over 30% in all major segments. It had total assets of Ç32.4 billion at the end of September 2007, and a market capitalisation of Ç5.7 billion as of the end of October.

In recent years, Landsbanki has transformed from a domestic universal bank into a diversified banking group operating throughout Europe, with close to half of its revenues originating outside Iceland. Focused on serving European mid-cap corporate clients, LandsbankiÆs product line includes access to both debt and equity markets; its research department includes some 90 analysts covering close to 900 European stocks locally.

The Landsbanki office in Hong Kong, which is set to become a branch, will be headed by Bj÷rn -rsµll PTtursson, who will oversee the bankÆs operations for the Asia-Pacific region. It will serve as a base to investigate lending and investment opportunities throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This is a strategy it says it already successfully employed in the UK, continental Europe and, most recently, North America.

LandsbankiÆs strategy is to further diversify its loan portfolio across countries and sectors, and entering the Asian market is a logical next step in the bankÆs expansion. With the opening of the Hong Kong office, this brings LandsbankiÆs presence abroad to 16 countries on three continents, and the bank is now in a position to act as a bridge between investors around the globe.

ôWeÆll start out by supporting our European customers who are here in Asia but what is even more important is that we will build relationships with new customers here in Asia,ö says Arnason. ôWe believe this region is the place to be in the 21st century.ö

In a first stage, LandsbankiÆs activities in Hong Kong will focus on structured and leveraged finance, trade and commodity finance, and corporate finance. A key factor behind the decision to set up the Hong Kong office, Landsbanki also intends to build on the strong partnerships it has already established in Hong Kong with a number of companies in the seafood industry that have their headquarters there. In a second stage, the Hong Kong office might make available to Asian investors LandsbankiÆs wide range of equity products and high-performance money market funds.

In addition, preparations are underway to establish a branch in Singapore in early 2008 in order to serve the needs of the bankÆs clients in the area of wealth management and further expand the bankÆs corporate advisory services. Landsbanki also aims to opportunistically tap into the ample liquidity available in Asia for its funding needs, and the Hong Kong office will thus be instrumental in further broadening the range of investors and diversifying the geographical sources of funding for the bank.
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