EastWest bullish but faces tougher competition in 2015

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East West Bank said it expects its operations to remain strong this year but competition will be tougher because of the entry of foreign banks after the Philippines liberalized its banking industry, a top official said on Friday.

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“The Philippine economy is a secular growth story. That means growth will stay for many more years, and it makes the country attractive for business, including banks,” said East-West President Tony Moncupa Jr.

“Competition will be tougher,” Moncupa told reporters in a roundtable discussion.

At least three Asian banks have secured approval from the central bank to put up a branch in the country. These banks are Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. from Japan, Shinhan Bank from South Korea, and the Cathay United Bank from Taiwan.

The only way to prepare for this competition is by expanding and beefing up its capabilities, structure, and competency, Moncupa said.

EastWest is putting up an additional 20 to 30 branches this year, which are on top of the 405 overall branches as of last year, Moncupa said.

Moncupa said the bank is also looking for tie-ups with strategic business like insurance, leasing, stock brokerage, and traditional bancassurance.

He said he expected net income for 2015 to rise by 15 to 20 percent as it continues to expand its network and offer more products and services to its clients.

Last year, EastWest posted a P2.07 billion net income, recording an almost flat growth from its net revenue a year earlier.

Recently, the bank said it will issue P8 billion worth of stock rights involving 371 million shares at P21.53 per share to raise funds for investment this year.

EastWest, a commercial bank led by the Gotianum family through parent company Filinvest Development Corp, started operations in 1994. The bank holds 100 percent of East West Rural Bank Inc. and 99.84 percent of Green Bank Inc. (A Rural Bank).

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