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September 9, 2008

Vietnam approves opening of HSBC, StanChart banks

Two European banks, HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc have won approval to be the first foreign banks to open wholly-owned units in Vietnam, as the communist-run state opens up more to foreign investment, reported Reuters.

HSBC, Europe's largest bank which first arrived in Vietnam in 1870, said in a statement it would headquarter its Vietnam-based bank in Ho Chi Minh City, the country's commercial centre.

"We aim to start operating through our new local entity as early as possible," HSBC's local CEO Thomas Tobin said, adding HSBC hoped to be the first foreign bank to operate a fully-owned local entity in the fast-growing Vietnamese banking sector.

Separately, the State Bank of Vietnam said it licensed Standard Chartered to open a wholly-owned bank based in Hanoi and with a capital base of $61 million.

The two banks now have 12 months to start operations in Vietnam.

Both have been running branches there for years and have bought stakes in local banks.

Hanoi-based Techcombank, Vietnam's seventh-largest lender by assets, said last month it would sell shares to HSBC for around $77 million, increasing HSBC's stake to 20 percent, the ceiling
for foreign investors in a domestic bank.

Standard Chartered owns 15 percent of Asia Commercial Bank ACB.HN.

Vietnam is opening up more to foreign banks as part of its commitments to the World Trade Organisation, which it joined last year.

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