KEB to re-enter the U.S. market after nine years

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KEB to re-enter the U.S. market after nine years

Korea Exchange Bank is re-entering the U.S. market that it left in 2003 when Lone Star became the largest shareholder.

According to KEB yesterday, CEO Yun Yong-ro left for the States on Sunday to review the possibility of opening branches. This is the first time Yun has visited the U.S. since becoming CEO in February.

Details on the potential number of branches or the possible locations have not been disclosed.

KEB currently has three affiliates - KEB NY Financial Corp., KEB LA Financial Corp. and KEB USA International Corp. - that are labeled as nonbanking financial groups. The main businesses of these affiliates are corporate loans and transfers and do not include deposits or retail finances.

The U.S. private equity fund Lone Star, after becoming the largest stakeholder of the Korean bank in August 2003 by purchasing 51 percent for nearly 2.2 trillion won ($1.9 billion), immediately shut down the banking operations of KEB in the United States.

Between December 2003 and April 2004, KEB closed its operations in the U.S., including branches in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

As stipulated by U.S. banking oversight legislation, not only the bank that has branches operating in the United States, but also the largest shareholder is subject to the U.S. financial authority’s surveillance on transparency.

Hana Financial Group, which became the largest shareholder of KEB earlier this year by buying the majority share from Lone Star, is relying on KEB for its expansion in the global market.

Hana has a branch office in New York conducting retail financial services.

Hana’s Chairman Kim Jung-tai earlier this year laid out his ambition to aggressively expand in the global market by utilizing Koreans living abroad, including those residing in the United States.

By Lee Ho-jeong [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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