* Helaba, big savings banks, BNY Mellon form joint venture
* Move to help German “Mittelstand” boost trade with Asia
* Helaba says strongly capitalised for ECB health check (Adds bank comment, details, context)
FRANKFURT, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Helaba, the German landesbank, has unveiled a joint venture with U.S. banking group BNY Mellon and the country’s 25 largest savings banks to help corporate customers to expand foreign trade with Asia.
Helaba said the agreement would initially cover southeast Asia, India and China and that other German savings banks beyond the 25 largest would be able to join in future.
The joint-venture marks an attempt by Helaba to broaden its services to German companies after coming smoothly through the financial crisis. The regional landesbanks, which are state-backed, have traditionally focused on providing wholesale banking services to the country’s 400-strong network of community-owned savings banks.
Helaba said on Wednesday it planned to open a representative office in Singapore this year to support German small and medium-sized companies, known as the “Mittelstand,” which are the backbone of the country’s manufacturing strength.
BNY Mellon would act as an international sales partner for all the joint-venture partners, promoting their brands in the Asia-Pacific region.
Helaba and the savings banks would route letters of credit, used for trade finance, from German importers via BNY Mellon’s branch network.
“This deal helps connect the famed Mittelstand with the fastest growing region in the world,” Ian Stewart, the chief executive of BNY Mellon’s treasury services said in a statement.
BNY Mellon has a longstanding relationship with Germany’s savings banks, having acted as one of their partner banks for almost 50 years.
Helaba also said its strong capital base put it in a strong position for a health check of the banking sector in the coming weeks, a precursor to the European Central Bank’s taking over responsibility for supervision of euro zone banks in November.
Some of Germany’s other landesbanks ran into difficulties in the financial crisis and are still struggling with reorganisations and European Union restrictions on their business activity.
Helaba and Stuttgart-based LBBW, Germany’s largest landesbank, which has already completed a revamp in the wake of the crisis, both aim to broaden services to corporate clients.
“There is a dichotomy within the landesbank sector, with some landesbanks like Helaba and LBBW investing, while others can’t invest or aren’t allowed to invest,” said one senior landesbank banker.
Unlike some landesbanks, Helaba played it safe in the run up to the financial crisis, avoiding an expansion into investment banking or risky investments that caused the collapse of WestLB and state bailouts for other landesbanks such as BayernLB , which the EU has blocked from expanding in Asia. (Reporting by Jonathan Gould and Andreas Kroener; Editing by Victoria Bryan and Jane Merriman)