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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                       25  August 2011

Maybank concerned about Indo bank ruling

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Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) is optimistic that the upcoming Indonesian ruling on bank shareholding will not be detrimental to foreign investors.

Based on media reports, the bank had understood two key points. The first was the possibility of Indonesia introducing foreign ownership restriction and compelling banks to reduce their foreign shareholding to below 50 percent.

The second was that such a move could pertain to limiting the extent of control by any single person or any single shareholder.

“The second message is part of efforts to improve corporate governance as there were issues at the smaller banks arising from actions of certain shareholders. On our part, we are anxiously waiting for the exact policy to be announced,” said Maybank president and CEO Datuk Seri Wahid Omar.

“We hope Indonesia would not change its policy on foreign shareholdings now. It has been liberal in the policy on foreign shareholdings in the past, in particular after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when many banks were short of capital and had to be restructured. These banks were taken over by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency and include banks like BII (Maybank subsidiary Bank Intemasional Indonesia).

“At that time, Indonesia welcomed foreigners and we hope it will not change the policy now that the situation is much improved.

“Furthermore, foreign banks only command less than 30% of the market compared with the more than 70 percent dominated by Indonesian banks,” Wahid said in an interview.

He expects some sort of flexibility to be given to foreign investors in Indonesia.

“I don't think any policy introduced will be detrimental to foreign investors. For example, the ruling on the tender offer previously that we have to pare down our stake in BII from 97.5 percent to 80 percent.

“There is still flexibility given that we will not be compelled to sell down and incur losses if the price of BII shares was lower than what Maybank had paid for previously.

“We have to refloat about 20 percent of our stake in BII to reduce our shareholding to 80 percent and update the relevant authorities there every six months regarding this matter. We have until December to do so,” said Wahid.

To date Maybank has sold less than 0.5 percent of BII shares in the open market over the past one year. It has more than 17 percent to sell.

In view of the current economic uncertainties, Maybank has taken measures to increase its medium-term funding for US dollars to prepare for market volatilities ahead, Wahid said.

“We are cautious about both the capital and money markets, in view of the uncertainties in the US and Europe,” he added. “We monitor our position very closely at interbank and foreign currency holding.”

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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