Although Thailand’s largest bank, Bangkok Bank (BBL), already has the greatest foot-print overseas, it continues to look for further opportunities in the offshore market and plans to open at least four additional branches next year.
One will be a sub-branch in Shanghai’s free-trade zone, and another will be located in Phnom Penh, with both branches expected to open in the early part of the year, said executive vice president Chaiyarit Anuchitworawong.
The other two – located in Pakse in Laos, and in the former Myanmar capital Yangon – are expected to open in the second half of next year.
BBL is the only Thai bank to have been granted a banking licence in Myanmar.
Chaiyarit said the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC) would bring more opportunities for Thai businesses and multinational companies, which form the bank’s strong customer base.
The Asean market will re-|main an attractive invest-|ment focus for companies over |the next two to three years, |therefore the bank has to en-|sure it has the right network in place to serve such a trend, even though it has already branches |in some countries in the region, |he explained.
In Pakse, the bank sees opportunity in the agricultural sector and transportation, as well as in the city being the trade hub of southern Laos.
In Myanmar, even though |BBL has permission to operate a commercial bank, it is expected to take at least a further year after opening a branch to build up business, as the country’s regulations are still a worry for potential investment.
“However, amid the unclear |picture over investment regula-tion in Myanmar, this could be |an opportunity for a Thai bank because investors will come to |us to ask for assistance. The Myanmar authorities also want foreign banks to provide knowledge for developing the banking industry,” he said.
BBL early next year will also |set up a new business unit called AEC Connect, which will operate under its International Banking Division.
The unit will support Thai investors who want information about investment and trading in countries where the bank has a presence, said the executive.
AEC Connect is a proac-tive move by BBL to cash in |on the expected increased activity abroad by Thai companies, he added.
The bank has set up three levels for AEC Connect, in line with the varying interests of its business customers.
For example, for clients that already know how to invest offshore, it will arrange investment trips, which will be centred on visiting BBL branches in the markets in question.
The bank will also host seminars overseas to help encourage investment.
The Bank of Thailand supports BBL’s move, which will play a role in enabling all business players to prepare well for when the AEC comes into effect next year, Chaiyarit said.
Source: THE NATION