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DBS mentioned as possible buyer in 3 potential sales

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DBS Group Holdings has been linked to three potential sales in as many days reflecting the capital strength of South-east Asia's biggest bank.

DBS Group Holdings has been linked to three potential sales in as many days reflecting the capital strength of South-east Asia's biggest bank.

But a possible buy of the biggest prize of the three - UK-based Standard Chartered - has been debunked by DBS.

"There is no basis to the report, and it is not on our agenda," said Edna Koh, DBS spokeswoman.

DBS Group would be the most likely StanChart buyer, said broker CLSA in a note to clients dated Dec 17, Reuters reported on Friday. It said that StanChart, which gets most of its earnings in Asia, has seen its shares fall below a forward price-to-book value of 0.5 times this week, making it an appealing target.

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In September, in an interview with Financial Times, DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta ruled out buying rival StanChart. He said the group's focus for the next five years is to invest in digital companies, FT reported.

"The window is a five-year one. If you don't get the digital transformation right in the next five years, you will be history," he said, adding that making a significant acquisition such as StanChart would suck up too much management time.

DBS parent Temasek Holdings also owns 18 per cent of StanChart.

DBS posted record net profit of S$3.45 billion for first nine months of 2015, up 8 per cent.

Reuters also on Friday said that DBS and Julius Baer are seen as potential bidders for Barclays Asian private wealth business, valued at about US$600 million.

Quoting sources, the report said Barclays is weighing the sale, even though a formal sale process had not begun.

Ms Koh declined to comment on the Barclays story.

Wealth management is a core business for DBS, having bought Societe Generale's Asian private bank for US$220 million last year. DBS was one of several bidders for Coutts International early this year, but lost out to Union Bancaire Privée.

DBS' head of wealth management, Tan Su Shan, told Reuters in June that DBS was aiming for a 40 per cent jump in its private banking assets to US$100 billion in less than three years.

Barclays managed US$36 billion in private banking assets in Asia as of 2014, according to a survey by industry publication Private Banker International, ranking it 14th in Asia. DBS was ranked eighth.

On Wednesday Bloomberg reported that DBS is said to be among the final suitors for the India-based assets of Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS).

Ms Koh also declined to comment on the India-based assets sale of RBS.

DBS is among lenders planning offers for RBS' portfolio of loans and deposits in India, with the deal reportedly worth about US$200 million, the report said.

DBS is planning to expand in India and has applied to set up a subsidiary there. It has outlined its ambitions to grow the India business to beyond its current 5 per cent contribution.

DBS is keen to scale up its corporate banking business in India, particularly in the small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) segment. At a press briefing in India this year, DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta said that to cater to the SMEs, the bank would need up to 75 branches in India, up from over 10 branches now.

DBS along with local rivals, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank, in July were ranked by Bloomberg Markets magazine as among the world's ten strongest lenders. OCBC was ranked the highest among the trio, at number three on the list, followed by DBS in the ninth spot and United Overseas Bank coming in 10th.