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Myanmar bank plans groundbreaking move abroad

YANGON -- Myanmar's biggest private-sector bank will become the first to expand beyond the country's borders.

Kanbawza Bank said Friday it soon will open a representative office in Thailand, having received approval from the Thai central bank. The office will provide Thai companies with market and regulatory information on Myanmar and refer them to potential local partners. Kanbawza is seeking approval to provide loans, fund transfers and other financial services in Thailand as well.

The bank also has applied to authorities in Singapore to establish a representative office there. Kanbawza seeks customers among the growing number of Southeast Asian companies moving into Myanmar since the country began its transition to democracy.

Kanbawza, established in 1994, belongs to a group that includes assets in mining and aviation. The bank has about 400 branches in Myanmar, where it partners with Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

Since Myanmar's banking sector was opened to foreign investment in 2014, big lenders have sought growth in partnership with foreign institutions. Among those considering moves abroad is Co-operative Bank, which has a partnership with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

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