Singapore banking giant bets heavy on OBOR initiative

OCBC is opening new outposts across Asia in anticipation of a flow of private investment opportunities in the years to 2020.

OCBC Bank, Singapore’s second-largest lender, is opening a string of offices focused on “Chinese Business” across Asia as it seeks to capitalise on the dealflow created by Beijing's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

The bank has already set up new outposts in Singapore and Indonesia, with plans to open two more in Myanmar and Malaysia later this year.

The Singapore office now has more than 10 professionals while OCBC's Indonesian base counts two representatives. Both are focused on developing business relationships with Chinese companies and local clienteles. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled OBOR in 2013 as a master plan to help inject billions of dollars into the infrastructure that links mainland China and its Eurasian neighbours. About 65 countries are covered by the programme, for which a total investment of $240 billion is expected.

With sovereign institutions and policy banks taking a leading role as the OBOR initiative makes its first steps, there are currently only limited projects available for the private sector, OCBC group chief executive Samuel Tsien told local sources.   

He expects investable opportunities for private players to materialise over the next three to four years as the programme enters its second phase. 

In other news, OCBC today said it had merged its two subsidiaries in China, which include OCBC Bank (China) and Wing Hang Bank (China) to form OCBC Wing Hang Bank. The bank, headquartered in Shanghai, “will drive the banks’ Greater China strategy across the key markets of China, Hong Kong and Macau,” according to a statement.