Korea's best corporate and investment bank 2018: Woori Bank
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Korea's best corporate and investment bank 2018: Woori Bank

Woori Bank

Tae-Seung Sohn, CEO, Woori Bank.jpg
Tae-Seung Sohn, Woori Bank

Nominating a winner for this award is not easy. Korea’s economy is dominated by conglomerates whose interests stretch across multiple sectors and markets. Meeting their day-to-day corporate and investment banking needs is big business for local and foreign lenders alike, and the quality of service between one institution and another can be difficult to define and discern.

But Woori Bank is the winner of this award for 2018. A senior banker at a foreign lender with long-standing operations in Korea puts it this way: “The difference is marginal among the four big lenders. But in terms of banking large corporates, Woori stands out from the crowd, based on the quality of its services and its market share.”

The bank’s long-term ambitions are also becoming clearer as it pushes into new markets, with the aim of serving Korean chaebol and the larger small and medium-sized enterprises operating abroad.

Woori is probably Korea’s most ambitious global-facing lender, with 275 outlets in 25 nations, including Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and North Korea. It aims to push that number to 500 by 2020 by focusing on markets such as India, Germany and Mexico.

Its investment banking team also has a distinctly international flavour to it. Woori was co-arranger on an A$1.5 billion ($1.09 billion) five-year, term loan for Australian property developer Walker in June. The following month, it was a lead arranger on a $890 million four-year loan for Hong Kong-based Kingboard Chemicals.

It has also dipped into the market twice itself over the last 12 months, issuing $300 million worth of five-year formosa bonds in Taiwan in January 2018 and raising $300 million via a heavily oversubscribed sale of tier-2 bonds in August.