MARKETS | Cesar Tordesillas, Vietnam

Vietnamese banks reaching out to nearby markets

Maritime Bank plans to set up branches or 100 percent Vietnamese owned banks in foreign markets, possibly Laos and Cambodia.


This is just one of the latest expansion moves of Vietnamese banks to foreign markets, fueled by high satisfactory achievements.

By March 29, 2012, Sacombank in Cambodia had mobilized 47 million dollars in capital, while the outstanding loans had reached 60 million dollars.

Earlier in February 2012, SHB opened its first branch in Cambodia. Just within one week after the inauguration day, SHB Bank in Cambodia mobilized 2.5 million dollars, mostly from the public. Do Quang Hien, Chair of SHB, has stated that the bank is following a strategy to expand its business abroad.

On the other hand, BIDV has become one of the leading banks in Laos and Cambodia just after some years of doing business. BIDV has also revealed the intention to open a branch in Myanmar when the country opens its market.

The biggest banks in Vietnam, including Vietcombank, ACB and BIDV, now cherish the hope of conquering far and choosy markets like Europe, the US or Eastern Europe. However, to date, only VietinBank has set foot on the European market in Frankfurt, Germany.

Dr Pham Huy Hung, President of VietinBank, said that the presence of VietinBank in the biggest finance center of Europe shows the bank’s strategy to become the Vietnamese leading finance group capable to compete with other international banks. Hung said VietinBank is also considering expand its business scale to other markets such as Czech, Poland, the UK and France.

However, it would be very difficult for Vietinbank to implement its ambitious plan. VietinBank is a big bank in Vietnam, but its scale in Germany remains modest.

Dr Nguyen Tri Hieu, the first Vietnamese person who set up a bank in the US, has noted that the operation scale of Vietnamese banks in foreign countries remains small. It does not require much capital to set up a branch or a representative office in foreign countries. A bank just needs to have 15-20 million dollars to open a representative office in the US.

However, Hieu said that once operational in the market, investors would have to strictly follow the laws set up by the US Federal Reserves and the laws of the states. Meanwhile, Vietnamese enterprises still lack the consciousness of abiding the laws.

ACB, Vietcombank and BIDV once got the permission from the central bank to open a representative office in the US, but they have not got the nod from the US agencies.


Analysts say that Vietnamese banks are just taking the first steps to conquer the world market, and that they are just capable to penetrate easy and nearby market.

It took BIDV several years to begin making profit in Cambodia, while Sacombank has closed the representative office in China after three years of operation in China.

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