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Foreign banks return after half a century

YANGON -- After foreign banks were chased out of the country in the 1960s, three have finally opened branches in Yangon, the former capital: Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.; and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and The Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, both from Japan.  

     OCBC's Yangon branch has a registered capital of 102 million Singapore dollars ($75 million), and has 20 employees, more than half of whom are local.

     "This is the first day that OCBC provides financial services in Myanmar after 52 years," Linus Goh, OCBC's head of global commercial banking, told reporters. The bank once had operations in Yangon and Lashio in Shan State. "We will build a sound financial system in cooperation with local banks," said Goh. "It is very important for the growth of the country's economy."

     The Japanese banks started operations on Wednesday and Thursday. "We believe that our bank can assist in transforming Myanmar's financial sector into one that is well developed, and can effectively spur and drive sustainable economic growth," said Go Watanabe, chief executive officer Asia & Oceania for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, at the opening ceremony.

     The three banks underwent a stringent vetting process by the Central Bank of Myanmar, and received their full banking licenses from the foreign bank licensing committee on April 2.

     Six more foreign banks received preliminary approval for branches in October, and are expected to open their doors in the coming months: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group; Bangkok Bank; Industrial and Commercial Bank of China; Malayan Banking; Mizuho Bank; and United Overseas Bank.  

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