Exclusive: Societe Generale said to explore sale of Asia private bank
By Saeed Azhar and Denny Thomas
SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Societe Generale, France's No. 2 listed bank, is exploring the sale of its Asia private banking arm, people familiar with the matter told Reuters, seeking to exit a market where small managers are getting hit by rising costs and competition.
The Singapore-based division could fetch around $600 million, the people familiar said, though the actual sale price has yet to be determined and may exceed that figure. The sources declined to be identified as the discussions are confidential.
A Paris-based spokeswoman for SocGen declined comment.
SocGen is the third major global financial institution to seek to sell its Asian wealth arm in the last five years, as the region's surging tide of millionaires and billionaires have posed a challenge to smaller private banks, which lack the asset base to compete with large global players and local upstarts.
According to the 2013 Capgemini/RBC Wealth Report, Asia Pacific is expected to be the region with the world's biggest population of high net worth individuals by next year. Asia's high net worth individuals - a term used to describe people with more than $1 million of investable assets - hold $12 trillion in assets, just shy of North America's total.
While Asia is among the fastest growing regions in the world for individual wealth, its millionaires and billionaires tend to offer small chunks of their riches to many wealth managers, rather than picking one to preserve over time.
That goes counter to the pattern in the U.S. and Europe where private bank clients tend to hand over their money to the managers for the long haul. Private bankers in Asia often remark that because the money they receive is usually first or second generation wealth, they act more like brokers than private bankers - an arrangement that can be costly.
Standard Chartered Bank plc, Singapore's United Overseas Bank Ltd and DBS Group Holding Ltd are among the companies that may express interest in the business, according to the people familiar with the matter. Continued...