May 26, 2016 / 9:02 AM / in 2 years

Thai Siam Commercial Bank targets growth abroad, plans China branch

BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) plans to open its first branch in China next year as it seeks to grow its nascent international portfolio to around 5 percent of total loans by 2025, a top executive said on Thursday.

Thai banks are seeking opportunities overseas in response to limited growth potential at home due to the sluggish domestic economy that has led to slow loan growth and rising bad debts.

SCB, Thailand’s third-largest lender, is also keen to expand in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, Kamalkant Agarwal, the head of international banking at SCB, told Reuters.

The Chinese branch would target clients seeking to make foreign direct investment (FDI) in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, he said.

SCB, which has a representative office in Beijing, has submitted a proposal to open its first Chinese branch in Shanghai, Manop Sangiambut, executive vice president for the China division, said.

The lender has so far approved $300 million in loans to Chinese customers, Manop said.

As the economy slows in China, investors are expected to increasingly target the fast-growing economies of Southeast Asia.

“China’s outward foreign direct investment will increase and we expect Thailand to be one of the beneficiaries,” said Kamalkant.

SCB is a relatively recent entrant to the international banking scene, and its foreign portfolio stands at around 0.2 percent of the total, he said.

The Thai bank opened a branch in Vietnam earlier this year, and expects to expand there, he said. Fast-growing Vietnam is attracting rising FDI and has signed up to a number of free trade agreements that should boost it more.

“We are quietly confident about growing our business in Vietnam,” he said. “It is already at $2,000 per capita, which is typically the point at which discretionary spending breaks out.”

SCB also hopes to apply for a banking license in Myanmar when the new government calls for the next round of applicants, he said. Rival Bangkok Bank is among the banks that already have licences there. (Reporting by Simon Webb and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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