Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- National Australia Bank Ltd., the nation’s biggest lender to companies, opened its first Indian branch in Mumbai this month to tap demand for financial services in the world’s second-fastest growing major economy.
The bank will focus on financing companies for trade and investment flows between Australia, New Zealand and India, said Rob Wright, chief executive officer of National Australia’s Asian unit. It will concentrate on lending in the agriculture, energy, resources and health sectors, and also offer advisory services, he said.
National Australia’s operations in India will pit it against overseas banks including Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc. The Melbourne-based lender, which in November also opened its first Chinese outlet, joins local rivals including Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in seeking to increase earnings from Asia.
“We have had demand from our clients to do more in India,” said Wright. The bank has more than doubled its staff in Asia since 2008 to about 450 people currently, and increased profit tenfold, he said, without giving specific figures. National Australia employs 17 people in India, he said.
National Australia will actively look at opportunities for acquisitions to build its existing operations and to hire teams of people in Asia, he said, without naming any specific targets or saying how much the lender may spend.
“We are attracting some very good people who are looking for more stability for securing their future,” said Wright. The bank doesn’t plan to make a large acquisition in Asia, he said.
National Australia opened its first Chinese branch in Shanghai in November, according to a Nov. 21 statement. In September, the bank said it received a license to establish a representative office in Jakarta.
ANZ Bank will have acquisition opportunities in Asia as new regulatory rules put pressure on European and U.S. banks to sell assets, Chief Executive Officer Mike Smith said in November. The Melbourne-based lender aims to double the proportion of earnings it generates in Asia by 2017.
There were 37 foreign banks operating in India as of June 30, according to a statement by the Indian central bank. Overseas banks led by Citigroup and HSBC had a combined market share of 5.1 percent of total bank credit in the nation at the time, the data showed.
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