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Nomura, UOB said to mull bids for Barclays Asia wealth unit

[SINGAPORE] Nomura Holdings Inc and United Overseas Bank Ltd (UOB) are among the banks considering bids for Barclays Plc's Singapore and Hong Kong private-wealth business, according to people familiar with the matter.

Second-round bids for the British lender's unit are due by the middle of this month, after interested firms submitted non- binding bids earlier this year, the people said, asking not to be named as the process is private. UOB's Singapore rivals DBS Group Holdings Ltd and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) are also weighing offers, the people said.

Barclays's sale of the unit could fetch as much as US$400 million, though the valuation could change as bidders get more detailed information about the business, they said.

The banks are looking to increase market share in an Asian wealth-management industry that is growing rapidly as a richer Chinese population plays a bigger role in global capital markets. Barclays, at the same time, is sounding out buyers for the regional wealth unit as it shifts its focus to more profitable banking operations in the US and UK.

DBS, OCBC and UOB are intent on increasing private-banking revenues in part to counter an expected slowdown in their loan businesses in Asia this year. Japan's Nomura, which posted a 49 per cent drop in profit last quarter, has been seeking to expand its overseas operations to offset slower growth at home.

Representatives from DBS, Nomura, OCBC and UOB declined to comment.  "Barclays can confirm our intention to sell the Wealth & Investment Management businesses in Hong Kong and Singapore," a spokesman for the bank said by e-mail. 

The British lender's Asia wealth business, with offices in Hong Kong, India, Japan and Singapore, had US$36 billion in assets under management at the end of 2014, according to Asian Private Banker data. Its India and Japan private banking businesses are not for sale, one of the people said.

Any Barclays deal in the region would add to a recent string of wealth-management transactions that have taken place globally. DBS agreed to buy Societe Generale SA's Asian private- banking business in 2014 for US$220 million.

Last year, there were 124 mergers and acquisitions totalling US$408.5 billion in the industry, according to Scorpio Partners. The number of deals was the highest in the eight years the London-based consulting firm has been tracking them.


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