Published On: Tue, Mar 4th, 2014

Israeli Bank Hapoalim Mulls Shanghai Representative Office

Bank Hapoalim has classified the Far East as a strategic target for the bank’s growth.

Bank Hapoalim

Sources inform ”Globes” that Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) is considering opening a representative office in China, probably in Shanghai, if it decides to go ahead. The bank already has operations in the Far East, with a branch in Hong Kong and a 20% stake, through Poalim Capital Markets Ltd., in Poalim Asia Direct Ltd., which advises Israeli companies interested in doing business in China.
Bank Hapoalim has classified the Far East as a strategic target for the bank’s growth. Opening a representative office in Shanghai will create synergy with the bank’s Hong Kong branch. It will also provide services in China for the bank’s customers, especially in the US and Europe, many of which do business there.

Bank Hapoalim recently appointed Amir Aviv as head of international banking. He previously served as CEO of Poalim Capital Markets, which gave him familiarity with Asian markets through Poalim Asia Direct.

Bank Hapoalim has made many changes in its Asian operations. It opened a branch in Singapore seven years ago, but closed it 18 months ago, transferring the activity to Hong Kong. It is now again considering expanding its Asian operations with the Shanghai representative office, which in future might be upgraded to a branch.

Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI) opened a representative office in Shanghai 18 months ago, after a lengthy approval process. At the same time, Bank Leumi plans to close most of its overseas representative offices, while keeping its foreign branches and subsidiaries. Israel Discount Bank (TASE: DSCT) has closed its French representative office, scaled back is activity in Zurich, and is in talks to sell its South American operations.

First International Bank of Israel (TASE: FTIN) has closed its London branch. The banks have been reducing their foreign activities because of falling profits, partly due to tighter regulations that have increased costs.

Bank Hapoalim is bucking this trend. In addition to the possible office in Shanghai, it plans to expand its overseas business through the acquisition of a bank in Europe or the US, and had considering acquiring Israel Discount Bank of New York. It is looking abroad because it has only very limited growth potential in Israel and it needs new growth engines.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com 

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