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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        19  April 2011

Malaysian bank expands to Singapore, Indonesia

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RHB Bank, currently under the mergers and acquisitions spotlight, is launching an online platform in Singapore to capture the robust growth there while overcoming the problem of operating with a restricted licence.

“The Singapore bank forms the largest part of our international business but we need to increase its contribution,'' said Renzo Viegas, principal officer and director of retail at RHB Bank. “We are remodelling five of the seven branches and relocating a few,'' he said.

Pre-tax profit for the Singapore banking operations jumped by 49 percent last year to S$29mil. Return on equity also rose from 17.3 percent to 23.9 percent last year.

Overall, global financial banking contributed RM100.2mil to group pre-tax profit of RM1.9bil last year.

The focus in Singapore is mostly on consumer, small and medium enterprise (SME) banking while some big investment banking deals may be struck occasionally.

Under the restricted licence, RHB is not allowed to take part in the automated teller machines network, open branches or issue debit cards.

“We will be focusing more on our strength in online banking,'' Viegas said, adding that the online platform was likely to be launched in August.

“We will also explore ways to expand via partnerships,'' he said, pointing to how its tie-ups with Tesco (co-branded cards), Paypal (e-commerce), Pos Malaysia (mass market), Tokio Marine (insurance) and Goldman Sachs (asset management) are working to its favour.

The next big expansion on the cards is the Indonesian business via 80%-owned Bank Mestika, with headquarters in Medan, Sumatra.

This goes on at the same time as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which holds a 25% stake in RHB Capital, is seeking the advice of Goldman Sachs and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch on a potential M&A for the group.

Largely an SME bank, Mestika will likely be the vehicle for RHB to dominate the business in Medan and the rest of Sumatra, while the treasury and options trading will likely be based in Jakarta.

“Mestika is a full-fledged licence,'' said Viegas, which means it can conduct foreign exchange trading and open branches everywhere.

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