Wednesday, May 23, 2001


O’Neill reports interest
in Bankoh properties

By Rick Daysog

The parent of Bank of Hawaii has received significant interest in its Southern California and Pacific Rim units, according to Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Neill.

O'Neill -- who spoke at a Rotary Club of Honolulu luncheon yesterday -- said Pacific Century Financial Corp. has received several inquiries from potential buyers since last month's announcement that it was selling its 19-branch Southern California subsidiary and its Asia and the South Pacific operations.

O'Neill declined to identify the interested parties but he did confirm recent press reports that his company has spoken with Australia-based Westpac Banking Corp.

Earlier this year, Westpac acquired Pacific Century's minority interest in the Bank of Tonga and Pacific Commercial Bank of Samoa.

Pacific Century -- which recently hired Credit Suisse First Boston to market its California operations -- said it hopes to complete its divestitures within a year.

O'Neill also discussed some of the details of its strategic restructuring, in which the company will shed $5 billion in assets, eliminate 1,000 positions and changes its corporate name to Bank of Hawaii Corp.

By refocusing on the Hawaii market, the bank will concentrate on areas where its is a market leader, he said. He noted the company plans to expand its mortgage lending and small business segments while improving customer service in its retail banking operations.

"We need to focus on markets where we have competitive advantages," he said.

O'Neill also took a good natured jab at rival First Hawaiian Bank, whose parent BancWest Corp. is in the process of being bought by Paris-based BNP Paribas SA. O'Neill began his speech in French before correcting himself:

"For a moment there I was a little confused and I thought I was representing the other bank," he said.

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