Jardine’s Acleda Stake Purchase Gets NBC Nod

The National Bank of Cambodia has approved multinational conglomerate Jardine Matheson’s purchase of a 12.25 percent stake in Acleda Bank for an undisclosed sum, Jardine announced yesterday, opening the door for more investment in other Cambodian sectors by the 178-year-old company.

The British company, based in London, has interests in companies in nearly every Asian country with ventures ranging from Mandarin Oriental luxury hotels and Dairy Farm supermarkets to investments that include mining, banking, real estate, engineering and vehicle man­ufacturing. The company amassed $36.2 billion in revenue in 2008, compared to $31.6 billion in 2007.

“We met with the [NBC} governor, who confirmed that our ap­proval has been issued,” said Jardine Mathe­son Vietnam Country Chair­man Alain Cany.

With the deal days away from finalization, Mr Cany said real estate, hotels, vehicle manufacturing, mining and agriculture are all possible investments as the company eyes Cambodia.

“I can confirm that within two or three years we will make another investment in this country and I am sure that Acleda will be a good partner to explore other investments in the market,” he said. “We see this as a stepping stone in investment in Cambodia.”

Mr Cany, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City, said he will join the board of Acleda and make regular visits to Cambodia to assess investment potential.

“We are open to anything, it could be agriculture business, it could be mining,” he said.

Tal Nay Im, director-general of the NBC, said NBC Governor Chea Chanto approved the deal this week and would consider other foreign purchases in Cambodian banks.

“If they are interested and they are a good profile company they can come,” she said.

The Jardine investment in Acleda comes after five years of interest and was first announced in December when one of the bank’s shareholders, the Dutch government’s Netherlands Development Finance Company, or FMO, decided to sell its share.

According to Acleda financial data, Acleda ended 2009 with total assets of $905 million as profits dropped 49 percent to $9.9 million.

Last week the private equity fund Leopard Capital announced that with two partners it had entered into agreement to purchase a 1.46 percent stake in Acleda Bank from the Acleda Staff Association for an undisclosed sum.

Historically Jardine has used smaller investments in other countries before diversifying its interests there and building up portfolios.

In Vietnam ten years ago, Jardine Matheson made its first major investment by buying a stake in Asia Commercial Bank but now owns the Pizza Hut franchise rights in Vietnam, a 25 percent stake of Truong Hai Auto Corporation which manufactures and sells commercial and passenger vehicles in Vietnam, as well as several other companies.

Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Chamber, said that many companies put the breaks on investment during the financial crisis but that Jardine’s purchase will send a strong message to companies interested in Cambodia.

“We have had a lot of negatives over the last year and the fact that they are coming is a very positive sign and sends a very positive message to any firms interested in Cambodia,” he said.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, said he expected Jardine to be one of many new investments in the country as the economy recovers.

“We have seen in the three or four months an uptick in enquiries from foreign investors wanting invest in Cambodia,” he said.


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