The merger of Singapore’s OCBC Bank and Wing Hang Bank’s China branch network is set to close in the second half of this year after Chinese regulators finally cleared the deal, said OCBC’s acquisitive group chief Samuel Tsien. The combined entity, with its local headquarters in Shanghai, will give OCBC access to over a hundred Chinese state-owned enterprises, 55 billion yuan of assets onshore, presence in 14 Chinese cities and a headcount of over 1,500. It is set to become the largest branch network in China owned by a Southeast Asian bank and the fourth largest foreign owned entity after HSBC, Bank of East Asia and Standard Chartered. OCBC targets China business after Wing Hang deal On its own, Tsien said, OCBC has no obvious competitive advantage in China against Chinese banks. But with the new synergy, the team plans to transform OCBC into a leading regional bank connecting trades and investments between China and Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. OCBC currently has a dominant local presences in all the four markets and is well set to see off competition from other foreign and Chinese banks in cornering China’s outbound investments under the “One Belt, One Road” programme, he said. “These businesses and advantages have always been there. We have just never called them “Belt and Road” businesses until now.” Tsien said. “Very frequently, if you go to the Indonesia market to buy out a power asset, you would need a local partner. This is why the Chinese corporates will come to us,” said Tsien, who counts China’s policy banks as among his partners. OCBC edges nearer to Wing Hang full control “The Wing Hang merger has been in place for over a year. It went better than planned. There is room for more growth,” Tsien said. “The merger is about business scope; not a merger about scale,” said Na Wu Beng, chief executive of OCBC Wing Hang in Hong Kong. Three years ahead of target, the combined revenue of OCBC and Wing Hang already allows OCBC to generate 20 per cent of its pretax profit from its ‘greater China’ businesses – a level the bank is keen to maintain over the coming years as OCBC aims to deepen its penetration of Chinese corporate and state-owned enterprise clients as they venture out to Southeast Asia. Singapore’s OCBC to buy Wing Hang Bank for HK$38.4b Last week, OCBC inked a deal to buy out Barclays’ Hong Kong and Singapore wealth management and investment management businesses, priced at 1.75 per cent of its assets, currently worth US$320 million. These will add US$18.3 billion in asset under management to the US$55 billion of OCBC’s Bank of Singapore, propelling it to become the region’s seventh largest private banking business. Bank of Singapore itself was formed from a 2009 buyout of ING’s Asia private banking franchise. Tsien ruled out further plans to buy its way up the global banking league table. “Our acquisitions are based in four jurisdictions. They are easier to manage,” he said.