China Bank looking to build branches in ‘rapidly urbanizing’ provinces this year

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CHINA BANKING Corp. (China Bank) is eyeing to penetrate developing parts of the country with as it continues to expand its branch network this year.

In a text message, China Bank Head of Corporate Planning and Investor Relations Alexander C. Escucha said the Sy-led lender is still identifying areas with “high growth potential” as it plans to put up more branches this year.

“While 60% of the country’s [gross domestic product] is still in the [National Capital Region], there [are] many rapidly urbanizing areas in the provinces that are attractive,” Mr. Escucha said last week.

For this year, China Bank plans to open 23 branches using the licenses it obtained from its earlier acquisition of Planters Development Bank (Plantersbank), which will expire this year.

In 2014, China Bank took over the management and operations of Plantersbank, acquiring it for P1.86 billion.

Mr. Escucha added that China Bank will be focusing on “getting the new branches to break even” and pursuing its digital initiatives.

Last year, China Bank slowed its branch expansion as it concentrated on ramping up its digital banking channel as well as improving its infrastructure.

China Bank and its thrift banking arm China Bank Savings have a total network of 620 branches.

China Bank, the seventh-largest commercial bank in the country in asset terms, recorded a P5.56-billion net income for the first nine months of 2018, 2.1% lower than the P5.68 billion logged in the comparable 2017 period, as it was bogged down by lower non-interest revenues despite booking higher loans.

China Bank shares stood at P27.45 apiece on Wednesday, up by 35 centavos or 1.29%. — Karl Angelo N. Vidal