Apr 10, 2014

ComBank to start Myanmar operations soon: Chairman

Commercial Bank PLC (Combank), Sri Lanka’s largest private sector bank yesterday expressed optimism of their foray into the fast emerging Southeast Asian nation, Myanmar before the third quarter of this year.

“We will open a representative office there before the third quarter of this year,” confided the bank’s Chairman Dinesh Weerakkody.

However the bank’s earlier plan was to enter this second largest Southeast Asian country before the end of 2013. The bank which appears to have cleared all the regulatory and compliance related requirements from Myanmar authorities by now are currently looking for potential sites to establish its first representative office in the highly promising country. “In fact the feasibility looks extremely good,” Weerakkody said.

Unlike in Sri Lanka, a foreign bank which seeks an entry in to Myanmar can only set up a representative office. However, probably after two years they can enter into Joint Ventures (JV) with the local banking partners.

Myanmar’s Central Bank in 2012 developed a tentative strategy to open up the domestic banking sector that comprises three phases permitting (1) private banks to run joint ventures with foreign banks (2) JV banks to establish locally incorporated 100 percent-owned subsidiaries, and (3) foreign banks to open bank branches in Myanmar (when Myanmar joins – ASEAN Economic Community in 2015).

Currently there are at least 34 foreign banks’ representative offices operating in Myanmar, and the sector is dominated by the four state banks accounting for two third of the total banking sector asset base, but are said to be struggling keep pace with the modernization and growth of the private sector peers. Combank’s Myamar entry is coming up after eleven years in to its first overseas venture – that is Bangladesh in 2003 which is now thriving with 18 delivery points. In 2013, 13 percent of the Rs.10.5 billion profit after tax was contributed by its Bangladeshi operations. Queried as to why Myanmar amid other regional counterparts, Weerakkody said Myanmar would add value to the bank’s portfolio and it would also complement its existing customer base that do business in Myanmar.

In addition, plenty of visitors from its bordering country Bangladesh too visit Myanmar for business and various other purposes.

Close and renewed ties with United States by Myanmar in recent times has attracted international investor attention to this promising country.

Source: Daily Mirror Sri Lanka