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Business deals

Japan's SMFG to buy 5% stake in Philippine bank RCBC

Financial group aims to expand presence in Asia and boost growth in digital banking

RCBC, the sixth largest private bank in the Philippines, has seen demand for lending to small and midsize enterprises increase amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Source photo by Reuters) 

TOKYO -- Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group will invest about 10 billion yen ($90 million) in Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., a Philippines-based commercial banking group, Nikkei has learned. It aims to expand its footprint in Asia and accelerate growth in areas such as digital banking.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., SMFG's main subsidiary bank, plans to acquire approximately 5% of RCBC's outstanding shares. RCBC expects to use the funds to invest in digitalizing its banking operations.

RCBC was established in 1960 as the banking arm of a conglomerate. It is the sixth largest private bank in the Philippines with net assets of around $15.2 billion, and about half of its revenue comes from corporate lending. The company also focuses on lending to small and midsize enterprises, which has seen an increase in demand following the coronavirus outbreak.

Services that cater to individuals have also expanded in recent years. In 2020, RCBC launched its digital banking app Diskartech. Its users during the three months through March jumped 60% compared to the same period a year ago as more people sought to pay and make remittances through smartphones amid the pandemic.

According to the World Bank, only 32% of people in the Philippines held bank accounts in 2017, less than other countries in the region, such as Malaysia's 85%, Thailand's 81% and Indonesia's 48%.

RCBC is quickly expanding its customer base by providing financial services that cater to citizens without accounts and are accessible through smartphones.

Meanwhile, SMFG is expanding its reach in Asia. In April the Japanese financial group revealed plans to acquire Vietnam's biggest nonbank lender FE Credit by investing a maximum of 150 billion yen for a 49% stake. The company also aims to leverage the digital banking expertise of its Indonesian subsidiary, Bank BTPN, to create business synergies in Asia.

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