By SUCHEERA PINIJPARAKARN
AFTER A 14-year absence from Cambodia, Bangkok Bank (BBL) has launched a branch that it expects to break even in just two years.
The Phnom Penh branch, which will serve customers from all over Cambodia, is BBL’s 29th international branch and the third in Cambodia of a Thai bank.
The bank resumed operations on December 30 as the 45th commercial bank in Cambodia and held the grand opening yesterday.
BBL exited Cambodia in 2000 after an increase in reserve requirements by the National Bank of Cambodia.
Cambodia’s economy is an attraction for many banks and the country also has other features to encourage investors.
Thailand is among the top five investors in Cambodia and is the biggest exporter to the country.
BBL invested US$50 million (Bt1.7 billion) on the branch, which in the first stage will focus on Thai companies planning to do business there and on multinational companies that are customers of the bank’s other overseas branches, president Chartsiri Sophonpanich said.
The bank expects to spend about three years building strong relationships with local companies, which are mainly family businesses run by second generations who mostly studied in Thailand.
The bank led a group of Thai businesspeople from mid-sized companies to join the grand opening.
The bank wants to enhance customers’ ability to look for business opportunities in Cambodia besides engaging in more border trade.
During the past decade, Cambodia’s economy has been growing at 7.9 per cent per year and it is expected to continue expanding at 6.7-7.4 per cent annually over the next three years thanks to regional trade and investment expansion after the Asean Economic Community crystallises at the end of this year.
Consumer products and construction-related businesses are in high demand in Cambodia, presenting opportunities for Thai companies.
BBL now has 30 branches in 14 countries. The last one started operating on June 2 in Myanmar.
The bank says its strong international network enables it to connect investors, financiers and entrepreneurs in partnerships across the region and help customers take advantage of opportunities.
Executive chairman Kosit Panpiemras said Thai companies must seriously consider doing business in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The bank has full capability to provide financial services to them in those countries.
With growth limited in Thailand but healthy in those neighbouring countries, it is essential for BBL to help increase the capability of Thai companies to develop markets there.
“Doing only border trade is not the way to increase capability. We should acquire long-term knowledge of our neighbours and help Thai businesspeople meet with local enterprises. They will become partners in doing business,” Kosit said.
The bank plans to open more branches in Cambodia in the future, executive vice president Chaiyarit Anuchitworawong said.