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Korean takeover points to thriving MFI sector

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
Japanese tourists walk in front of a branch of Woori Bank in Seoul August 23, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

As part of its global expansion plans, Woori Bank, a commercial bank headquartered in Seoul, last week took over VisionFund Cambodia, a licensed microfinance institution worth nearly $200 million.

The South Korean bank announced on Sunday that it had acquired 100 percent of stakes in the Cambodian MFI and changed its name to WB Finance.

WB Finance now has 1,400 employees in 106 branches across Cambodia, according to business news portal BusinessKorea.co.kr.

Chea Serey, director of the National Bank of Cambodia, confirmed the takeover in a phone conversation with Khmer Times.

“The acquisition has already been approved by the Central Bank,” she said. “Woori will bring new technology, know-how and capital to the local market.”

“NBC always encourages the strengthening of existing MFIs through acquisition, improved business strategies or new relevant technology. We also hope to see more consolidation happening at a later stage,” she added.

Kea Borann, president of the Cambodia Microfinance Association, said the takeover indicates that the local MFI sector is becoming more attractive to foreign investors.

“It is great for the image of our industry that we are attracting big international investors and banks. It is a good sign that they are choosing to buy existing MFIs rather than starting a new one as part of their global expansion strategy.”

Woori Bank has succeeded in a series of mergers and acquisitions in the global market after President Sohn Tae-seung took over last year. Before becoming the bank’s CEO, Mr Sohn led its global business.

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