(Corrects to show CEO comment in para 5 does not refer specifically to TMB Bank)
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), Malaysia’s largest bank, on Friday appointed deputy president Abdul Farid Alias as its new president and chief executive to lead an expansion of its Southeast Asian business.
The lender, Southeast Asia’s fourth-largest in terms of banking assets, is believed to be considering a $1.2 billion stake in Bangkok-based TMB Bank Pcl that Dutch financial services company ING Groep NV wants to sell.
That means Abdul Farid, who succeeds Abdul Wahid Omar, could be on the frontline of a possible bidding war for TMB with smaller Malaysian rival CIMB Group Holdings, which is also believed to be keen on the stake.
Speaking to reporters after his appointment, Farid said Thailand is an obvious choice for an acquisition as Maybank has no commercial presence in the country despite being the biggest broking house there.
“We are looking at finding ways, terms that are acceptable to us from value and size perspective,” he said.
Abdul Farid was Maybank’s head of global wholesale banking as well as deputy president. He was formerly director of investments with Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional. He has more than 20 years of experience in investment banking, working in JP Morgan and Aseambankers Malaysia Bhd.
Abdul Farid’s appointment was expected, coming from a small pool of candidates vetted by the Ministry of Finance and the central bank. Roughly 61 percent of Maybank’s 90.7 billion Malaysian ringgit ($27.97 billion) market value is controlled by state-run funds. His predecessor was tapped in June to become Malaysia’s minister of economic planning.
At 0900 GMT, shares in the lender, which has operations from Pakistan to the Philippines, closed down 0.77 percent, underperforming the broader market that rose 0.26 percent.
The race for ING’s 31 percent stake in TMB will heat up once Thai authorities approve Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s $5.6 billion bid for a majority stake in Bank of Ayudhya.
The deal is likely to go through, market analysts say, as the Thai central bank wants to boost competitiveness of the banking sector and attract more foreign investment.
Thailand is key for Maybank, which needs to widen profits from overseas to 40 percent in 2015 from 30 percent under the current strategy and is struggling to comply with Indonesia’s requirements to cut back foreign ownership of its banks.
Abdul Farid will have to oversee efforts to sell down Maybank’s stake in Jakarta-listed Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) to 80 percent from 97 percent and meet mandatory sell-down requirements.
Maybank has so far floated 11.7 percent and is seeking to extend the deadline to sell down.
CIMB and Maybank competed to take over smaller Malaysian rival RHB Capital, each winning central bank approval for merger talks. However, both lenders walked away from the deal in June 2011 due to issues with pricing.
There is also the question of stricter regulations. In Malaysia, which accounts for 70 percent of Maybank’s earnings, Abdul Farid will have to deal with the prospect of slower loan growth after the central bank in July reduced the length of mortgages and consumer loans.
Maybank’s second quarter results are due on Aug. 21.
$1 = 3.2425 Malaysian ringgit Reporting by Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah; Writing by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Matt Driskill and Tom Pfeiffer