Development Bank of Singapore
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Development Bank of Singapore

Time to build a banking empire

Branches in Asia: 127 (excluding Singapore)
Present in: 13 countries

Asian loan book: $4.1 billion If any bank is to challenge HSBC as the dominant Asian bank of the future it may well be DBS. The state-owned Singaporean bank has little history as a pan-regional player but that is changing. DBS has taken advantage of the low valuations of the region's banks and has embraced a policy of expansion through acquisition, buying stakes in banks in several south-east Asian countries.

In 1997 it bought 85% of an Indonesian bank, now called Bank DBS Buana. In the same year it raised its shareholding in Thai Danu Bank, a mid-ranking Thai bank, to just over 50%. In DBS's 1997 annual report, former chairman Ngiam Tong Dow forecast the completion of the purchase of a 60% stake in Bank of South East Asia, a small Philippines bank with branches in Manila and Cebu.

DBS may still be taking only small steps to become a regional player, but analysts believe its strength at home provides a good starting point for expansion. "DBS Bank is starting off from a very low base, in terms of brand recognition, product franchises and hands-on experience," says Ramos at Goldman Sachs, "but the keen interest, ambition, financial wherewithal and management potential are there for DBS to become a contender for leading regional bank in the next 10 years."

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