DBS buys 13% stake in Shenzhen bank for $1.08 billion, its biggest acquisition in China

Upon completion of the deal, DBS will become the largest shareholder in Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - DBS Group has agreed to buy a 13 per cent stake in privately owned Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank (SZRCB) for 5.29 billion yuan (S$1.08 billion), part of its plan to accelerate its expansion in China's Greater Bay Area.

The investment - its biggest acquisition in China - strategically positions DBS to increase its stake in the Shenzhen lender after Beijing eased rules on foreign ownership in the financial services sector, the bank said in a statement on Tuesday (April 20).

DBS chief executive officer Piyush Gupta said: "We see this as a highly complementary strategic partnership that will allow us to double down on the Greater Bay Area and leverage SZRCB's local network and know-how to deepen DBS' Greater Bay Area strategy.

"At the same time, we would be able to support the continued growth and digital transformation of SZRCB through our regional presence and digital capabilities."

The deal is also in line with the group's strategy of investing in its core markets. China is one of DBS' six core markets, together with Singapore, Indonesia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The investment has been approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Shenzhen office of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, and is expected to be completed following approval by the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Upon the completion of the deal, DBS will become the largest shareholder in SZRCB and will have representation on the Chinese bank's board of directors.

DBS said the investment will have an impact of less than 0.2 percentage point on the group's capital ratios, and is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings and return on equity (ROE).

The bank will acquire 1.35 billion new shares in SZRCB at 3.91 yuan per share, representing 1.01 times the book value per share of SZRCB as at end-December 2020. DBS said it intends to fund the investment using internal cash resources.

SZRCB operates one of the largest bank branch networks in Shenzhen, where 210 of its 217 branches and more than 2,100 self-service terminals are located.

With more than five million active retail customers and over 170,000 active corporate clients, SZRCB had 404 billion yuan of deposits and 519 billion yuan of total assets at the end of last year.

Approximately 40 per cent of its total loans are in the retail segment and the remaining 60 per cent in the corporate segment, largely to local small and medium-sized enterprises.

For the year ended Dec 31, 2020, the Shenzhen bank generated 4.8 billion yuan in net profit after tax. DBS said SZRCB has a strong track record of profitability, achieving average ROE of over 17 per cent since its establishment in 2005.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that DBS was among potential bidders for parts of Citigroup's consumer business in Asia.

At its virtual annual general meeting last month, DBS said it was looking to double down its presence in China and India as part of efforts to expand into the wider region.

In November last year, DBS completed its takeover of cash-strapped Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) in India, which added 550 branches and more than 900 ATMs to its network in the country.

Said Mr Gupta in Tuesday's statement: "Our ability to execute another strategic transaction shortly after amalgamating LVB in India is testament to our ability to be nimble and grow, as we leverage our strong capital position."

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