Magazine article American Banker

Asian-American Bankers in Calif. Eye Other Markets

Magazine article American Banker

Asian-American Bankers in Calif. Eye Other Markets

Article excerpt

Competition is fierce among Asian-American banking companies in California, so a number of them are stepping up expansion efforts in other markets with sizable Asian-American communities.

Just this week, UCBH Holdings Inc. in San Francisco and Wilshire Bancorp Inc. in Los Angeles' Koreatown announced deals for banks in Boston and New York, respectively.

Executives at both California companies said they are on the lookout for more deals, and an analyst covering the sector said that others in the crowded California ethnic markets are on the prowl as well.

On Wednesday the $7 billion-asset UCBH, which owns United Commercial Bank, announced its second deal this year for an out-of-state bank. It said it had agreed to buy Asian American Bank and Trust Co. in Boston for $34.3 million in cash and stock. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter.

"This really fits into our strategy to continue to expand our franchise into different markets where there are high concentrations of Chinese-Americans," said Thomas S. Wu, UCBH's president and chief executive. "We're working on a couple of other deals right now," he said, but he would not name the banks he is scouting or their cities.

On Monday the $1.46 billion-asset Wilshire said it would buy the $58.7 million-asset Liberty Bank of New York for $15.7 million in cash and stock.

Joanne Kim, an executive vice president at Wilshire and its chief lending officer, said competition in Los Angeles drove its decision to buy Liberty.

"There are about 12 banks competing in the Korean-American community here, and to continue our growth, we need to explore other markets," Ms. Kim said. "There's a very strong Korean-American market in New York, and we'll also have an opportunity to expand into other underserved ethnic communities in the area. …

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