[SINGAPORE] Singapore's DBS Group Holdings and Julius Baer are seen as potential bidders for Barclays Asian private wealth business, valued at about US$600 million, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Barclays is weighing the sale, the sources said, even though a formal sale process had not begun.
DBS sees wealth management as a core growth business and is keen to expand in that area, having bought Societe Generale's Asian private bank for US$220 million last year.
While Barclays declined to say whether a sale was on the cards, several smaller Asian private banks that have struggled to generate enough revenue to pay expensive bankers and cover rising regulatory costs have been sold recently. "We are working through cellular analysis which examines what we do best and where. This has caused some speculation as we have numerous business lines and geographies," a Barclays spokesman in Singapore said.
DBS and Julius Baer were the two most likely bidders for the business if it came up for sale, two people familiar with the matter said. The sources declined to be identified as the discussions were confidential. "Barclays is doing soft marketing for the sale of the unit," said a source with knowledge of the matter, adding Swiss banks were also interested.
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.
UBS and Citigroup were the top private banks in Asia, according to the survey, followed by Credit Suisse which has also made Asia its priority region for business growth.
Asia has seen a spate of deals in the private banking sector since the financial crisis, notably in 2009 when ING offloaded its Asian private bank to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp for US$1.5 billion.
Other deals included Bank of America Corp selling its Asia and other non-US private banking business to Julius Baer, and smaller deals include HSBC selling its Japan private bank to Credit Suisse.
Standard Chartered said this week it had hired former Barclays banker Didier von Daeniken as its global head of private banking and wealth management.