DBS chief says China pessimism not ‘overdone’, upbeat about India

By Anshuman Daga, Yantoultra Ngui and Fanny Potkin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – DBS Group Chief Executive Piyush Gupta said current widespread pessimism about China’s economy was not “overdone” but he was upbeat about India, where the bank plans to triple its business in the next five years. “There’s some real headwinds in China in the short-term”, he told a Reuters Newsmaker event in Singapore, noting the crisis in its debt-ridden property sector.

“The real estate sector overhang is material, and it’s not easy to clean up.” Notwithstanding the economic challenges, DBS is aiming to expand in the world’s second-largest economy with plans to increase its stake in Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank, which Gupta expects will list on the stock market in the future. “The bank is good for us because it gives us a really good footprint in the Greater Bay area.”

DBS, its largest shareholder, holds 13% of the bank. Property developer Shenzhen Huaide and Shenzhen Huaqiang Asset Management Group own 6.15% and 6% respectively, according to the bank’s annual report published in April.

When asked if DBS would be interested in a majority stake at some stage in the future, Gupta said “yes”.

Laying out ambitions to triple DBS’s India business, Gupta said it could have annual revenues of $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in the next three to five years, bringing it on par with Taiwan.

“That means these countries now start really moving the needle for DBS,” he said.

DBS has been in India for nearly 30 years and operates about 530 branches in 19 Indian states, according to its website.

Gupta also identified Indonesia as a country which could see greater capital allocation by DBS.

He said DBS’s wealth management business has benefited from inflows from across Asia, the Middle East and Europe recently and that the bank expects net inflows to be “pretty strong” going forward.

Wealth management was one of the best-performing segments in the financial services sector and the industry could support a high number of participants, he added. His comments come in the wake of UBS Group’s emergency takeover of rival Credit Suisse.

Singapore has seen strong inflows from wealthy customers amid global uncertainty, including U.S.-China geopolitical tensions, due to the city-state’s status as a financial safe haven.

The inflows and higher interest rates globally have boosted earnings for Singapore banks. DBS has predicted a record year for 2023 after posting a forecast-beating 48% jump in second-quarter profit.

(Interview conducted by Anshuman Daga of Breakingviews; Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui and Fanny Potkin in Singapore; Additional reporting by Ziyi Tang in Beijing; Writing by Scott Murdoch; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)