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OCBC CEO Says Willing to Buy Asian Assets of EU Banks

European banks are looking to unload some of their assets in Asia to meet tighter capital requirements, and David Conner, CEO of Singapore’s second largest lender Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC), says he is open to potential acquisitions.

A customer enters a branch of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC) in Singapore, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. OCBC, owner of Singapore's biggest life insurer, said fourth-quarter net income rose 67 percent to S$502 million. Photographer: Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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A customer enters a branch of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC) in Singapore, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. OCBC, owner of Singapore's biggest life insurer, said fourth-quarter net income rose 67 percent to S$502 million. Photographer: Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We are in a position to acquire pieces of portfolios as and when they are offered if we find the risks and the returns to be adequate,” Conner told CNBC on Monday.

While European lenders looking to sell Asian assets in recent months have approached the bank, he says the pricing has not been attractive.

Discussing other opportunities arising from the debt crisis in Europe, Conner said as OCBC’s European peers pullback on lending in Asia, it is helping boost the bank’s loan growth in the region.

“Banks like OCBC have liquidity, capital and capability to go out and support customers,” he said.

Last year, the bank saw loan growth of 27 percent over the previous year – the fastest pace in over 10 years, according to Conner. In the fourth quarter, profits rose a better than expected 18 percent year-on-year to 472 million.

Discussing the bank’s outlook for 2012, Conner said while he expects continued economic growth throughout the major markets in which OCBC operates including Singapore, Indonesia and China, business this year could be slower than previous years.

But, he adds that with U.S. growth building momentum and Europe getting its arms around the debt problem, global markets are likely to be less volatile this year.

“Last year has been a very choppy and difficult period and I would expect things to settle down this coming year,” he said.

Banks