January 19, 2017 01:00 By SUCHEERA PINIJPARAKARN THE NATION
THAILAND’S fourth-largest bank, Kasikornbank (KBank), is exploring the possibility of acquiring banks in Indonesia, but acknowledges this is a challenging goal due to the Indonesian regulator’s rules concerning foreign ownership of local banks.
The regulations require foreign banks to buy more than one bank, and that the targets must not be strong institutions.
KBank president Pipit Aneaknithi said yesterday that the bank currently had partnerships with two banks in Indonesia, and was prepared in terms of facilities and capital to establish its own footprint in the Indonesian market.
While Indonesia has very high potential for KBank and the takeover of local banks is an option, the requirement that foreign banks have to purchase more than one bank is something that it might not be particularly comfortable with, he said.
The Bank of Thailand acknowledges this concern, he said, adding that market entry via the Qualified Asean Banks (QAB) scheme is another potential solution for KBank.
The bank is therefore interested in applying for QAB status if the scheme’s framework is implemented.
Meanwhile, the establishment of a physical branch in Indonesia is likely to be more difficult than doing so in Vietnam, which is another focus country for KBank, the president said.
The best solution right now for KBank is therefore seen as the continued partnership with two local banks in Indonesia, he explained.
Elsewhere in Asean, KBank currently has physical branches in two markets, one each in Cambodia and Laos.
The Cambodian branch will be officially opened on February 8, with the Vientiane branch in Laos due to be opened later this year.
With the presence of a physical branch in a foreign market not always the best solution, and the cost of establishing such an operation today a major matter, partnering with local banks is a tangible way to conduct business, he said.
However, the difficulty is whether the bank and its partners have the same policy direction and share a similar interest in accommodating clients, he added.
KBank, meanwhile, has been active in terms of international banking business in the past seven years by focusing on China, where it is upgrading to local banking this year.
The market share of KBank in trade finance between Thailand and China has risen from 5 per cent to 15 per cent in seven years, Pipit said.
He said the next step for KBank in tapping a regionalised trade-finance market dominated by China would be for the bank to facilitate financial services to Thai clients for business between one foreign country and another. “We should open a letter-of-credit service to our clients in China who want to run a business in Myanmar,” he said by way of example.
Furthermore, KBank must embrace the digital platform in order to integrate its regional operating model.
Under its banking-platform plan for 2016-2017, KBank must be able to service cross-border mobile transfers, multicurrency transactions and cross-border direct settlement, he stressed.
KBank yesterday reported a 2016 net profit of Bt40.17 billion, some 1.77 per cent higher than the previous year’s level.
The bank and its subsidiaries set aside a loan-loss reserve of Bt33.75 billion at the year’s end, up 28 per cent from Bt26.37 billion the year before.
The higher reserve reflects the rise in non-performing loans last year, from 2.7 per cent to 3.32 per cent.
Lending growth, meanwhile, supported net interest income, for which KBank recorded year-on-year growth of 5.5 per cent to Bt89.67 billion.