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NEWS UPDATES 12 July 2010

Brunei bank plans to go regional

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Baiduri Bank plans to go regional, banking on stronger equity as it continues to churn out innovative products for customers, the Brunei Times reports.

Baiduri General Manager Pierre Imhof said the bank's plan to grow regional is for the medium term, World Finance reported after the bank won the "Best Banking Group in Brunei" from the publication for the second year running. When asked how Baiduri would grow given Brunei is a "relatively small but wealthy nation," Imhof told the magazine that domestically, the bank has grown fast in the last 15 years and it is always difficult to grow at the same pace. "

Imhof said that Brunei was a bit different from other economies as the Sultanate is not directly hit by the financial crisis. "We, as an oil and gas producing country, most of our income come from exports in that sector. Therefore, we're not hit by the crisis. Brunei is also playing more of a role in the regional environment and we have a state-of-the-art regulatory environment. It is very similar to what you see in Singapore for example," he said. Imhof believes that in that system, Bruneian banks could get stronger and stronger.

"The stronger the banks, the better their reputation and the better the perception the rest of the world and region have about Bruneian banks. From there, they will grow and be more present in the region," he was quoted as saying. The report said Baiduri believes that it has become one of the key players in the local banking industry.

"Our contribution has been significant and last year, it has been particularly strong in the financing of corporates and small-to-medium enterprises," Imhof said, adding that through the Brunei Economic Development Board, a number of big projects has been developed, with the bank providing financing. In the interview with the magazine, he also acknowledged how Brunei has a highly educated consumer base and that the country is "very well covered by banks".

So Baiduri has a lot of competition from the strong banks which it believes will motivate the bank to do better as it is a "very competitive environment".

"There are world-class banks in Brunei like HSBC, SCB and Citibank. They have been present for years, so we have to compete with the best in the world," he said.

The group's profit before tax in 2009 reached $56 million, a 65 per cent increase over 2008 amid a hostile market as the domestic economy paces itself through recovery.

"We try, through Baiduri, to give to the people of Brunei quality service, a professionalism and at the same time innovation and creativity. That's how we have branded our name to try to be for Bruneians, their first choice," Imhof said in the report.

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