Woori Financial Chmn. Lee Focuses on China for Profit Increase
Lee visits Weihai Branch in Shandong Province and calls on key Chinese financial officials in Beijing in bid to support Woori Bank’s Chinese operations
Chmn. Lee Soon-woo of Woori Financial Group, 7th R, is among the dignitaries at the opening of Woori Bank’s
branch in Weihai, Shandong Province, China, on June 8 this year.(Photo: Woori Financial Group)
Chairman Lee Soon-woo of Woori Financial Group concluded his first overseas tour to China from July 8-11 with stops in Beijing and Weihai as part of his plan to expand the group’s Chinese operations.
The chairman, who was named to take over his current job not long ago and concurrently holds the presidency of Woori Bank, a major affiliate of the group, also called on Korean firms operating in the neighboring nation during his trip. The main agenda of his tour was to attend the opening of Woori Bank’s branch in Weihai, Shandong Province. He also called on top officials of the local administration.
The reason for his Chinese tour was based on the group’s plan to boost its overseas earnings, as the domestic financial market has reached a saturation point to the extent that it can no longer expand earnings by solely operating in the domestic market.
The new branch in Weihai is the 16th branch for Woori Bank in China and the first one in Shandong Province. Furthermore, there are some 1,300 Korean firms operating in Weihai, joined by many other foreign companies in China. The Woori Bank Weihai branch is the first foreign invested bank to open in the city, officials of the bank said.
Woori Bank’s operational plan in Weihai is to start its first stages of operation with Korean firms and residents in the city and then to do business with indigenous customers not only in the city, but also in other cities in Shandong Province, which is economically the third largest province in China.
The Weihai branch aims to secure $60 million in deposits in the initial year of its operation and boost it to $100 million in the second year and $50 million in loans.
Officials of the bank said the CEO wants to step up the bank’s overseas operations in Asia because the bank is competitive in the market, which has great potential for growth through strategies suitable for the conditions of the market, enabling it to boost its overseas earnings to 15 percent of total earnings from the current 5 percent.
The sale of Woori Group has been good for its affiliates’ share price, with projections of a 40 percent rise in the next few months, according to several securities firms. They feel that the share prices of Woori Financial Holdings and Woori Bank in particular are expected to jump substantially around December when the ownership of the group changes hands.
LIG Investment and Securities for one, said the share prices of Woori Group affiliates including Woori Bank, Woori Securities, and Woori Card are undervalued, but are expected to rise with their real values becoming clearer as the biddings get closer.
In the meantime, Chairman Lee has officially been installed as the chairman at a ceremony on June 14 with the huge task of turning over the financial group into the hands of private investors or organizations.
He told reporters that he has never thought that he would be heading a financial group with 400 trillion won in total assets, the largest in Korea, when he first took a job at a commercial bank 37 years ago. He has 18 months to privatize the financial group.
Woori Bank, the main affiliate of the group was born out of the merger of Korea Commercial Bank and Hanil Bank.
Before privatization, the chairman also has to reform the management and organization of the financial group.
He also has to trim Woori Financial Holdings’ manpower by 30 percent. He believes that the financial group has to change in order to survive in the hands of good investors.