(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with comments by chiefs of Woori Financial Group and Shinhan Financial Group in paras 1, 3-4; CHANGES headline)
By Kim Kwang-tae
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean banking giants will be on the lookout for more mergers and acquisitions this year to strengthen their business portfolios, their executives said Thursday.
"We will pursue M&As in a bold and swift manner when the opportunity comes," Yoon Jong-kyoo, chairman and CEO of KB Financial Group Inc., said in a New Year's message.
Cho Yong-byoung, chairman and CEO of Shinhan Financial Group, and Sohn Tae-seung, chairman and CEO of Woori Financial Group, also said their groups will seek strategic M&As in the latest efforts to boost their business portfolios.
The three did not give any further details on potential targets.
The South Korean banking giants have been racing to expand their business portfolios and secure new growth momentum amid declining margins due to record low interest rates and tough competition in the nearly saturated domestic market.
Last Thursday, KB Kookmin Bank, the flagship unit of KB Financial Group, decided to take over a 70 percent stake in Prasac Microfinance Institution Ltd. in Cambodia for $603 million. KB plans to acquire the remaining 30 percent stake in Prasac within the next two years.
In 2018, KB invested 114 billion won to gain a 22 percent stake in Indonesia's Bank Bukopin in a move to enter the Southeast Asian microfinance markets.
KB Financial Group saw its net profit fall 1.4 percent on-year to 940.3 billion won (US$813.5 million) in the third quarter.
KB Financial's net interest margin -- a key barometer of profitability -- decreased 0.02 percentage point from three months earlier to 1.94 percent at the end of September.
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