March 19, 2018 / 7:44 AM / 9 months ago

Societe Generale plans to reopen branch in Australia

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SYDNEY, March 19 (Reuters) - Paris-based Societe Generale is planning to re-open a branch in Australia, according to documents filed with the corporate regulator and seen by Reuters, several years after winding down its local operations.

Separately, citing an unnamed source Bloomberg reported on Monday that the world’s third biggest bank by assets has also applied for an Australian banking license, in a likely move to increase its lending to companies and raise local capital.

A Societe Generale spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters the bank was committed to Australia and that it had “never exited” the market. She declined to provide details of the banking license application.

The license issuer, Australia’s prudential regulator, declined to comment.

The French bank last week applied to re-register the name for a branch in Sydney, after cancelling the name registration in mid-2012, according to records lodged with the corporate regulator and seen by Reuters.

A branch and a banking licence would allow the bank to raise funds in Australia and lend to local companies directly rather than through its offshore operations.

Societe Generale and other European banks halted lending to Australian companies as they grappled with the sovereign debt crisis in their own region, but have started lending again in recent years, particularly to infrastructure projects. The offshore market share by European banks in Australia has fallen from over 25 percent a decade ago, to about 16 percent in 2017.

Societe Generale began operating in Australia in 1981 but has not been listed as a licencee by the country’s banking regulator since 2012, according to online records of the Australian Prudential Regulator Authority (APRA). (Reporting by Paulina Duran in SYDNEY; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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