Royal Group, Australia Bank Plan Venture

A leading Australian bank to­day will announce plans to open branches in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in a joint venture with local tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group, officials said Sunday.

ANZ Banking Group Ltd, one of the four largest banks in Australia with reported assets of some $185 billion, could begin op­erations here within six months, officials said, and will immediately challenge competitors as the largest foreign banking institution in the country.

An Australian delegation headed by the bank’s chairman, Char­les Goode, met with Na­tional As­sembly President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh Sunday afternoon to discuss the company’s plans.

Speaking after the meeting, Prince Ranariddh hailed the deal as one of the largest foreign banking investments in the country’s history and said it pointed to a “new era of stability.”

The delegation is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen today and sign a formal agreement in the afternoon, officials said.

Thieng Kith, vice president of the Royal Group, said Sunday the deal was the sum of two years’ discussions and negotiations.

“Finally they agreed…. Now the new government is settled, and a new king has been coronated. [ANZ] feels very strong and sees a lot of opportunity here,” he said. He declined to specify the nature of the relationship between ANZ and the Royal Group, one of the country’s largest conglomerates with holdings such as MobiTel and the television station CTN.

The ANZ branches will also mark the expansion of the automated teller machine, or ATM, in Cambodia, officials said. Both Thieng Kith and parliamentarian Than Sina, vice chairman of the Assembly’s commission on banking, said the branches will have ATMs, a service currently offered only by Canadia Bank.

ANZ officials declined to talk about the deal Sunday, saying that they will make a public announcement today.

“We’re looking at our opportunities,” Goode said after the meeting. Australian Ambassador Lisa Filipetto, who attended Sunday’s meeting with Prince Ranariddh, declined comment on the deal.

The move into Cambodia is part of a larger growth strategy adopted by ANZ, which is also planning to invest in China. The banking group already claims to be Australia’s leading bank in Asia, and is the market leader in New Zealand.

ANZ could open its branches within six months, Than Sina said.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper, the bank hopes to bulk up in retail banking, small business and wealth management in coming years.


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