East West Bancorp is the holding company for East West Bank, which operates more than 100 branches in California, mainly in and around Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Orange County, and Silicon Valley. The bank has more than 25 additional branches in the Atlanta, Boston, Houston, New York, and Seattle metropolitan areas, as well as locations in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Catering to the Asian-American community, it provides international banking and trade financing to importers/exporters doing business in the Asia/Pacific region. East West Bank offers multilingual service in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Spanish.
The bank also offers standard services such as personal and business loans, checking and savings accounts, insurance, and merchant credit card processing services. Catering to the manufacturing, wholesale trade, and service sectors, East West Bank focuses its lending activities on commercial and industrial real estate loans, which account for about 60% of the company's loan portfolio. The bank also writes multifamily real estate, residential mortgage, construction, business, and consumer loans. Although East West Bancorp is highly involved in California's slumping commercial real estate market and it suffered its first yearly loss in nearly three decades in 2008, the company's strong liquidity and reserves has helped it weather the economic downturn.
East West Bancorp has expanded its market area through acquisitions. In 2009 the company acquired more than 60 branches and most of the banking operations of larger rival United Commercial Bank, which had been seized by regulators. The deal gave East West Bank about 40 more California branches, plus some 20 additional US locations beyond the state. Pre-tax gains from the transaction, which included a loss-sharing agreement with the FDIC, helped East West Bancorp return to profitability in fiscal 2009. The company kept the momentum going into 2010 as net interest margins improved.
Also in 2010 East West Bancorp made an unsolicited bid to acquire bankrupt real estate company Meruelo Maddux, which owns about 50 properties in Southern California, but the offer was rebuffed by both the target company and a bankruptcy court judge. East West Bancorp inherited some $27 million in loans to Meruelo Maddox as part of its takeover of United Commercial Bank, and had hoped to turn convert the credit into an ownership stake in the property company.
In another 2010 deal, East West Bancorp acquired the failed Washington First International Bank, adding six branches in Seattle; the transaction also included a loss-sharing agreement with the FDIC. – less