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July 19, 2008

SocGen to buy 15% stake in Vietnam bank
SeABank, a Vietnamese bank, has secured approval to sell a 15 percent stake to French bank Societe Generale, Reuters quoted the State Bank of Vietnam as saying on Friday.

The purchase would make the French bank a strategic shareholder in the Hanoi-based partly private unlisted SeABank, or Southeast Asia Bank, the statement said. It did not give any value for the deal.

SeABank has total assets of $1.2 billion and a capital base of 3 trillion dong ($182 million). Its shares were quoted at around 13,500 dong (82 U.S. cents) on the unofficial, unregulated markets, valuing the bank at $246 million.

SeABank reported a big jump in loans in the first half of this year and said it expected its lending to climb 145 percent in 2008, at odds with the central bank's drive to slow down credit growth in the country [ID:nHAN266220].

The lender, the 12th largest among Vietnam's 37 partly private banks, has projected to raise its capital base by 67 percent to 5 trillion dong by the end of this year.

Once its deal with Societe Generale is sealed, SeABank would join nine other Vietnamese banks, which have sold shares to foreign banks as they seek expertise and greater business opportunities in the country's fast-developing economy.

Vietnam caps foreign ownership in a domestic bank at 30 percent with a 15-percent limit for a strategic investor who could apply to raise his stake to a maximum 20 percent, subject to government approval.

So far none of the foreign banks, which have bought stake in the nine Vietnamese banks owns a 20 percent stake, even though several have said they would do so in near future.

The nine banks included Vietnam's two listed banks, Sacombank and ACB ACB.HN, both based in Ho Chi Minh City.

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