S. Korea Woori Bank May Slow Card, Overseas Growth

Woori Bank, South Korea's No. 3 bank, will review its expansion strategy for credit card and overseas businesses and may slow growth in those sectors for profitability, its incoming chief executive said on Monday.

The bank, a main arm of Woori Finance, has made rapid growth at the expense of margins in the past few years to play catch-up with bigger rivals Kookmin Bank and Shinhan Bank, a unit of Shinhan Financial.

Woori, like rival banks, has also opened branches and units in other parts of Asia to secure new revenue sources.

"We need to grow without hurting profitability," Lee Chonghwi, who was picked as Woori Bank's new CEO at the weekend, told a news conference.

"I am aware that there was a voice of concern about growth in (Woori's) credit card. If there are areas which need to control pace of growth, we will control pace."

Lee, 59, will be approved at a shareholder meeting later this month.

Late last month, the government named Lee Pal-seung, CEO of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, as new chief executive of Woori Finance Holdings, 73 percent owned by a government agency.

The government plans to kickstart the sale of shares in Woori Finance as part of a drive to privatise state-run banks such as the Korea Development Bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea. Action is expected in the second half of the year.

Lee said the privatisation would be a key task during his 3-year stint at Woori Bank, and he would try to help Woori take a central role in the privatisation process, signalling the bank's interest in rival banks. He did not elaborate further.