I am retired and take educated guesses on all things financial.

March 08, 2010

March 8, 2010: A Yen for Asian Pacific Banks

Jimmy Rogers, traveling the world from his Singapore home base, is adamant when he states that most western countries in debt up to their eyeballs to the Asian Pacific world face an economic holocaust. How this plays out is open to speculation, but many scenarios look grim for the spenders and bright for the lenders.

Investors who want to explore exposure the Asian Pacific region may want to explore regional banks with a strong yield that are traded in US markets. I like three of them:

Malayan Banking (MLYBY): Trading at $4.18/share and yielding 3.08%, Malayan Banking is a $14.8b southeast Asia banking conglomerate. MLYBY has a stake in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Cambodia, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, New Guinea, Hong Kong, PRChina, the UK and the US, amongst others.It is a player in Islamic banking practices and has operations in banking,finance, stock brokering, insurance, asset management and venture capital. Malayan Banking's 52-week trading range is $2.00-9.75/share. It appears to be solidly traded.

DBS Group Holdings (DBSBY): Trading at $40.45/share and yielding 3.99%, this $23b Singapore-headquartered holding company operates through its main subsidiary, DBC Bank. DBSBY is engaged in all levels of retail banking, and does a brisk business in corporate and investment banking services. DBS Group's 52-week trading range is $16.35-45.00/share. It is thinly traded in the US, but has a following footprint overseas.

Westpac Banking Corporation (WBK): Trading at $123.04/share and yielding 4.30%, this $72b Australian-based bank has a strong balance sheet and is well-positioned in the South Pacific, managing six units: Wespac Retail, Westpac Business Banking, St. George Bank, Ltd.,BT Financial Group, Westpac Institutional Banking, New Zealand Banking and other entities. Thinly traded in the US, like DBSBY, it appears to be expanding into very profitable ventures through organic growth and strategic acquisitions. With a 52-week trading range of $48.63-128.48, WBK may be looked to for purchase on weakness.

I believe that owning strong, diverse banks in the Asian-Pacific sector is a conservative, long term way to game the continuing growth of that region. There are other banks in the region worthy of consideration, but these three look appealing to me at this time.

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