East West Bancorp's takeover of the failed United Commercial Bank not only catapulted the struggling firm to new prominence, but it also sets up a showdown in California between the two biggest Chinese-American lenders.

The deal made the Pasadena company the largest player in the Chinese-American sector with $19 billion of assets, far surpassing its nearest competitor, the $11.7 billion-asset Cathay General Bancorp in Los Angeles. East West obtained United Commercial's domestic banking operations, a branch in Hong Kong and its bank subsidiary in Shanghai.

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