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BRANCH BANKING, ISLAMIC BANKING | Tony Chua, Malaysia
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Mizuho to venture into Islamic Banking in Malaysia

Malaysia is giving out financial services licenses to foreign companies to boost banking industry competition.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Japan's third-largest bank by market value, said it has applied for an Islamic banking permit in Malaysia, where it began commercial banking on Monday.

The Tokyo-based bank is starting the business with 61 bankers in Kuala Lumpur and plans to hire more as the operation expands, Keizo Ohashi, chairman of the subsidiary, told reporters in the Malaysian capital today.

"The expansion to Malaysia represents a further strategic increase of resources in Asia," he said in a statement.

"Many Japanese companies have been urging us to set up operations here." Mizuho won a license from the country's central bank last year.

Malaysia is giving out as many as nine financial services licenses to overseas companies as it seeks to boost banking industry competition amid record economic gains. The Malaysian government forecasts as much as 6 percent growth this year after the fastest expansion in a decade last year.

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