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Indonesia's new bank ownership rules leave door open for DBS deal
JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Indonesia's central bank will cap single ownership of domestic banks at 40 percent under new rules but allow exemptions that could pave the way for DBS Group's (DBSM.SI) $7.2 billion bid for PT Bank Danamon (BDMN.JK) to proceed.
The long-awaited regulation announced on Wednesday is aimed at preventing lenders in the fast-growing G20 country falling captive to single interests and ensuring a diverse shareholder base to hold management accountable.
But the rules, which come on the back of ownership restrictions on mining companies, have fuelled concerns Indonesia is becoming tougher on foreign investment.
Bank Indonesia said in a statement that listed banks that are financially strong and have tier-1 capital ratio of more than 6 percent will be allowed to own more than 40 percent. It did not specify how much.
Though on expected lines, that is likely to be a relief for Singapore's DBS, which embarked on the biggest ever takeover of an Indonesian company three months ago, and for foreign banks such as Standard Chartered (STAN.L) that own substantial stakes in the nation's lenders.
"The ability to approve higher thresholds looks like it may have the DBS merger in mind," said Joel Hogarth, a partner at O'Melveny and Myers law firm in Jakarta.
Shares in DBS, Southeast Asia's largest lender which has a tier-1 capital ratio of 12.7 percent, rose 1.1 percent in Thursday trade, while Danamon rose 1.6 percent. The muted reaction showed investors have mostly priced in the deal.
After a slew of bankruptcies in the 1998 financial crisis, Indonesian banks have vastly improved their financial health and become a magnet for foreign investment, leading some analysts to speculate the central bank's initial plans for a cap without exemptions were targeted at limiting foreign ownership.
Eight of Indonesia's top 11 banks by market value now are either controlled by foreign banks, business families, private equity firms or wealth funds in one of the region's most open banking sectors. Foreign entities are currently allowed to hold up to 99 percent of local banks, versus 30 percent in neighbor Malaysia.
"I think the foreign investor community, both the foreign banks that are currently there and foreign banks looking to enter the market, will be breathing a sigh of relief and this should avoid the serious negative consequences to the reputation of Indonesia," said Jake Robson, a partner at Norton Rose in Singapore.
Bank Indonesia, the country's banking regulator, said financial institutions can hold up to 40 percent of local banks, while non-financial institutions can hold up to 30 percent and individuals only 20 percent. The limits do not apply to state-owned banks such as top lender Bank Mandiri (BMRI.JK).
"Banks can own more than 40 percent shares in (local) banks' capital as long as they obtain approval from Bank Indonesia," the central bank said in the regulation, adding such owners will still need to have 20 percent listed after five years.
Under the new rule, existing majority owners failing to meet Bank Indonesia's top standards for financial health will have to reduce their stakes to comply with the limit by January 2019.
Bankers said the regulator had balanced the need for financial health in the sector and a clamor by nationalist politicians to limit foreign ownership against the industry's concerns that a lack of exemptions would lead to destabilizing sell-offs in bank stakes and halt future investment.
Bank Danamon's CEO Henry Ho said the rules were now more transparent for DBS, though he would not be drawn on whether they improved the chances of a deal for Indonesia's sixth-biggest lender.
"To go on with the deal, we are still evaluating the impact (of the rule)... It is certainly clearer," said Ho, after the bank announced a better-than-expected 36 percent rise in first half profits.
A DBS spokeswoman said it would review the regulations and continue to work closely with Bank Indonesia on the next steps.
DBS plans to buy the 67.4 percent stake in Danamon held by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings TEM.UL and offered a 52 percent premium to minority shareholders when it announced the bid in early April.
The bid soon ran into trouble as some local bankers and politicians said they would oppose it, while Bank Indonesia said it would first finalize the new bank ownership rule, one of a series of policy moves in 2012 worrying foreign investors.
DBS, still has to pass Bank Indonesia's "fit and proper" test, said a source with direct knowledge of the deal, which would be Asia's fourth-biggest ever banking deal.
Other foreign owners of significant stakes in Indonesian banks include Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX), Malaysia's Maybank (MBBM.KL) and private equity firm TPG Capital TPG.UL.
"It seems they have kept the door open by not differentiating between foreign and local owners," said a banking analyst, who declined to be identified.
(Additional reporting by Rieka Rahadiana, Andjarsari Paramaditha, Fathiya Dahrul and Olivia Rondonuwu in Jakarta, and Saeed Azhar in Singapore; Writing by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Mike Nesbit and Muralikumar Anantharaman)
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