Three foreign banks to open branches in Vietnam

HANOI Tue Jan 8, 2008 11:51pm EST

HANOI Jan 9 (Reuters) - Taiwan's Taipei Fubon Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea (024110.KS) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) would open branches in Vietnam, one of Asia's fastest growing economies.

The State Bank of Vietnam said in a statement seen on Wednesday it would soon license the three banks to open branches, joining around 30 foreign banks already operating nearly 40 branches in the country.

The statement on the central bank's Web site (www.sbv.gov.vn) did not say when and where the three banks would open branches.

The Industrial Bank of Korea has a representative office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's commercial and financial centre.

The central bank also said it had given initial approval for the establishment of five more domestic joint stock banks, which taking to nine the number of such Vietnamese banks awaiting a licence.

It said the five were Energy Bank, Asia Foreign Trade Bank, Vietnam Star Bank, Dong Duong Thuong Tin Bank and Bao Tin Bank. Late last year, the Oil and Gas, Lien Viet, Bao Viet and FPT banks also secured initial approval.

Apart from six state-run banks and 35 domestic partly private banks, 35 foreign banks which have a combined 14 percent share of the loan market, six venture banks, four financial leasing ventures, two wholly foreign owned financial leasing firms and 50 representative offices of foreign banks also operate in Vietnam.

The country has about 4,000 bank branches, half of them run by state-run Agribank, Vietnam's largest enterprise.

A Planning and Investment Ministry official has said Vietnam wanted to limit credit growth to 22-25 percent this year after inflation hit 12.63 percent in December, the highest since December 1995, when the CPI spiked 12.7 percent.

The central bank said loans jumped 37 percent last year in an economy that grew 8.48 percent. The government aims for 9 percent growth this year. (Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; Editing by Michael Battye)