UOB plans to grow organically, but on the lookout for opportunities

United Overseas Bank (UOB) is not in a hurry to snap up banks, but it is on the lookout for the right opportunities. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ARTHUR LEE CH
United Overseas Bank (UOB) is not in a hurry to snap up banks, but it is on the lookout for the right opportunities. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ARTHUR LEE CH

SINGAPORE - United Overseas Bank (UOB) is not in a hurry to snap up banks, but it is on the lookout for the right opportunities.

Its chief executive Wee Ee Cheong told shareholders at its annual general meeting on Thursday that its regionalisation strategy is on track.

"Net interest income and fee income reached new highs. So did regional profit, which now contributes 39 per cent of our group earnings," he said.

The bank made a record full-year profit of $3.01 billion last year, the first time it managed to cross $3 billion in earnings.

Mr Wee later told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that UOB is always on the lookout for acquisitions in the region, but will continue to grow organically.

He said the business environment could be more "moderate" this year, given the pullback in monetary stimulus measures by the United States Federal Reserve.

But he added that Asia, particularly Southeast Asia where the bank has a firm footing, could continue to do well.

"We believe that overall, the risks are manageable, given the stronger balance sheets in Asia."

Asked by a shareholder about the bank's outlook for Thailand and Myanmar, Mr Wee noted that the political crisis in Bangkok but added the bank is managing its business there cautiously.

He added that Myanmar is attracting interest as many of its customers are heading there.

"Yes, Myanmar, I think we are still romancing. We like to be involved in a piece of the action," he said.

"Why? Because our customers are going to Myanmar, so banking as a customer flow business, we like to follow where our customers go, and this is something we are on the top of."

Some 350 people attended the meeting held at Pan Pacific Hotel.