Thai banks set to expand across region

Economy April 14, 2014 00:00

By Sucheera Pinijparakarn


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Thai banks plan to open more branches in other countries in the region, including Cambodia and Vietnam, as they prepare to have a role in increasing trade and foreign investment in Asean.

Bangkok Bank, the country’s largest by assets, will reopen a branch in Cambodia. Although that country’s economy is small, the bank has determined that having a presence there could help it make investment and trading connections with regional companies, BBL executive vice chairman Deja Tulananda said.

BBL will consider opening branches in other Asean countries when it sees its Thai customers setting sufficient footprints in those markets. However, the goal of its re-entry to Cambodia is to support financial services for non-Thai companies.

Deja said the bank would focus on corporate customers doing business in Cambodia, noting that the sugar industry had high potential, followed by retail.

Meanwhile, the bank also plans to open one or two more branches in Vietnam, where it already has two in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, he said.

The Vietnamese government is restructuring the economy and amending regulations to stimulate economic growth and attract foreign investment, which would present opportunities for the banking industry, he said.

Krungthai Bank, which has two branches in Cambodia, is upgrading its financial-services centre in Chong Jom, a border town in Thailand’s Surin province, to a branch to cash in on rising border trade, first senior executive vice president Weidt Nuchjalearn said.

He said the prospects for trade and investment in Cambodia were brighter than in Laos because Cambodia has a greater population, providing a market for Thai consumer products and services.

Meanwhile, Kasikornbank plans to establish a ‘footprint’ in Vietnam and Indonesia. In the first phase, it will open representative offices in those countries to offer trade-finance services to Thai companies, said president Predee Daochai. It will upgrade these offices to branches as the next step.

He said the bank last month also submitted a proposal to Laos to reopen a branch there. It is expected to be opened this year.

KBank is the only Thai bank that is active in China apart from BBL, which has acquired local-bank status in that country. KBank recently opened a sub-branch in Longgang district of Shenzhen.

Predee said the bank had a full branch in Shenzhen but its customer base there has outgrown its capacity to serve them adequately. Therefore, opening a sub-branch was the proper choice because the investment cost was reasonable. Still, the sub-branch will not be able to handle deposits and cash withdrawals like the full branch.

KBank’s Shenzhen branch will be the head office, and the bank may consider opening additional sub-branches to serve its Chinese customers.