Korea's best international bank 2018: Citi
Foreign lenders have long struggled to crack Korea. It’s a tough place in which to operate; bruising and bitterly competitive, only the tough and fully committed survive.
No international bank has done a better job of working out this fascinating and complex market than Citi. The US lender reported net income of W244 billion ($216 million) in the 12 months to the end of June 2018, up 2.8% from a year ago, on revenues of W1.22 trillion. It is strong across the board, serving international firms operating on the peninsular and leading local chaebol.
Citi’s excellence permeates its domestic operations, as you would expect, stretching across the retail spectrum to credit cards, a division that delivered 15% year-on-year growth in earnings before interest and taxes in the first half of 2018. It boasts strong unsecured lending and depositary receipt businesses, and is a growing presence in cross-border asset-backed securitization.
A long-term process of closing branches to reinvest in digital alternatives continues, with country chief executive and president Park Jin-Hei noting that 70% of the bank’s onshore branches have been shut down over the last 12 months.
And in investment banking, Citi remains a first-tier player. It topped the equity capital markets league tables in the year to the end of October 2018, completing deals worth a total of $2.84 billion, and placed second in the debt capital markets rankings over the same period.
It is the range of deals that Citi got over the line during the assessment period that really makes this bank stand out.
In January, it was lead underwriter on a $1 billion sale of global depository receipts by Kakao group, the parent of digital lender kakaobank; it also led a $1 billion combo block trade for biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion and its healthcare division in March. In August 2018, it advised Hanwha Asset Management on a $400 million investment in Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup.