SINGAPORE -- Kanbawza Bank (KBZ Bank), Myanmar's largest private bank, has opened a representative office in Singapore as part of efforts to expand its footprint into Southeast Asia. It already has an overseas base in Thailand and intends to open another representative office in Malaysia by the end of December.
KBZ Bank is tapping into the growing interest of companies from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar's economy, as it continues to grow rapidly after decades of isolation. Its gross domestic product growth is expected to reach 8.6% this year, making Myanmar the world's fastest-growing economy, according to the International Monetary Fund's latest World Economic Outlook.
ASEAN companies are pouring investment into the country. Keppel Land, a subsidiary of Singapore's Keppel Corp, entered a conditional joint agreement with Myanmar conglomerate Shwe Taung Group in September to invest $48.6 million to develop premium serviced residences and offices in Yangon. Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group has also announced plans to build 20 hospitals in Myanmar equipped with sophisticated, mostly U.S.-made, equipment within 10 years.
Singapore is currently Myanmar's largest trading partner among the ASEAN countries, said U Nyo Myint, senior managing director of the KBZ group of companies. Bilateral trade between Singapore and Myanmar was valued at 3.23 billion Singapore dollars ($2.35 billion) in 2014.
Interest in Myanmar continues to grow among Singapore companies who "see tremendous opportunities in the country," Myint told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Most of the Singaporean investors are interested in real estate development and infrastructure development in Myanmar, as well as hospitality and tourism," he added.
Through its new Singapore representative office, KBZ Bank intends to assist Singapore companies who are looking to invest into Myanmar. The office will provide private sector liaison services and information on regulatory requirements for both Singapore and Burmese companies to enter each other's markets. The bank believes that the move will bring it closer to its "goal of becoming Myanmar's foremost commercial presence in the Southeast Asian region and internationally." It also intends to strengthen relationships with international financial institutions in Singapore.