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RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, Vietnam

Asia Commercial Bank eyes joining Vietnam’s top four

The lender’s chief targets to join the club in four years.

Asia Commercial Bank’s assets will probably more than triple by 2015, making it the first non- government lender to overtake one of Vietnam’s four biggest lenders, Chief Executive Ly Xuan Hai said.

Assets of Asia Commercial Bank, the nation’s fifth-biggest bank, are expected to climb to 900 trillion dong ($43 billion) by 2015 from about 255 trillion dong currently, Hai said. Joint- Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, known as Vietcombank, is the country’s fourth-largest lender with about 344 trillion dong of assets at the end of June.

The growth of non-state-owned banks underscores the transition of Vietnam’s economy over the past quarter-century from government controlled to market based. Since 2000, Vietnam has opened a stock exchange, concluded a trade agreement with the U.S., and joined the World Trade Organization.

“It’s a long journey,” Hai said in an interview in his Ho Chi Minh City office on Sept. 16. “From the time we were one- tenth the size of state-owned banks, now, step by step, we have narrowed the distance.”

Asia Commercial -- in which Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) has a 15 percent stake -- has closed the gap already. Its assets were 68 percent of Vietcombank’s at the end of June, up from 43 percent at the end of 2007.

View the full story in Bloomberg.

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