Bank of East Asia plans to review its dividend policy after small shareholders expressed dissatisfaction with the final dividend for last year. Asked whether the bank this year would pay a dividend similar to past years, chairman David Li Kwok-po yesterday said the board of directors would consider the issue. In February, the bank announced its worst earnings in 30 years and proposed a final dividend of 2 HK cents per share. Last year, net profit plunged 99.1 per cent to HK$39 million. At the annual general meeting, small shareholders opposed the low dividend. Mr Li said the poor performance last year forced the small dividend. The bank has announced it will award shareholders one bonus share for every 10 held. 'We hope we can pay more [dividend] this year,' he said, adding the board would have to consider the issue. 'It's not my own decision.' To shareholders who said that the bank's executives should take a pay cut rather than force a cut in the dividend, Mr Li said senior executives, including himself, had already forgone their bonuses but whether they would have a salary cut as well was yet to be decided. Brian Li Man-bun, a deputy chief executive, expects the bank to do better this year after a massive write-down of troubled securities last year. He said the lending business in the first quarter was in line with expectations but net interest margin was still under pressure. Mr Brian Li hoped the bank would benefit from the business of yuan trade settlement when it is implemented as the bank has a presence in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Separately, Samson Li Kai-cheong, another deputy chief executive, confirmed an earlier report that BEA was in talks with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China on how to handle the mainland lender's stake in their jointly held securities unit, ICEA Securities, but no conclusion had been reached yet. Sources said the bank would take over ICBC's majority stake in ICEA. BEA owns 25 per cent of ICEA, which has about 250 brokers and a strong retail investor base.