UOB, Santander to help grow business between S-E Asia, UK

UOB's Sam Cheong said Britain is a springboard for Singapore firms looking to enter the European markets.
UOB's Sam Cheong said Britain is a springboard for Singapore firms looking to enter the European markets.

United Overseas Bank (UOB) and Santander UK have teamed up to help firms wanting to do business between South-east Asia and Britain.

They are looking at helping 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expand from Britain into the Asean region and vice versa over the next two years.

The banks are targeting firms with annual revenue in the range of $20 million to $200 million, or £6.5 million (S$11.8 million) and above.

The SMEs will be able to access each bank's financial products and services, as well as the respective industry insights and business connections, which are relevant and essential for successful market entry, said a statement from the two banks yesterday.

UOB and Santander UK will also facilitate more trade and investment from companies across Asean into Britain, including helping Singapore companies with their expansion plans in Britain.

Data from Santander UK shows that Singapore was a major contributor to Britain's foreign direct investment inflows in 2016.

OPENING DOORS

Through our strategic alliance with UOB, we will engage more SMEs in the UK, helping them to understand the diverse economies and cultures of the region. This will help them to take advantage of the growing number of opportunities that exist.

'' MR JOHN CARROLL, Santander UK's head of products and international business.

Mr Sam Cheong, UOB's head of group foreign direct investment advisory, said Britain is a global business hub and a "springboard for Singapore companies looking to get into the European markets".

And with Brexit looming, British companies are strengthening their global trade, he noted.

"We are likely to see more UK companies seeking expansion in South-east Asia," he added.

South-east Asia, with its rapidly expanding markets for the young and middle class, is very attractive to British exporters, in particular those in the consumer and food and beverage segments, he said. "With rising incomes and the increasing consumption power of Asean's young, plentiful and skilled workforce, the potential to build a sustainable business in Asean is huge."

UOB estimates that the combined gross domestic product of the Asean countries will expand from US$2.5 trillion (S$3.4 trillion) to US$6.4 trillion by 2030, making it the fourth-largest economy in the world.

Mr John Carroll, Santander UK's head of products and international business, said: "We know from experience that firms that export and trade internationally tend to be more confident and will benefit from additional opportunities.

"Through our strategic alliance with UOB, we will engage more SMEs in the UK, helping them to understand the diverse economies and cultures of the region. This will help them to take advantage of the growing number of opportunities that exist."

UOB's foreign direct investment advisory, which was set up in 2011, works with government agencies, trade and industry associations and professional service providers.

UOB has nine such advisory centres - in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It has provided services to more than 1,600 companies from around the world, facilitating close to $90 billion in business flows.

Santander organises regular trade missions for British firms to link them up with buyers, and to help them network with key stakeholders to unlock trade opportunities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'UOB, Santander to help grow business between S-E Asia, UK'. Print Edition | Subscribe