ANZ has insisted it will comply with all remaining international sanctions on Myanmar as the bank secured regulatory approval to set up a representative office in the once reclusive nation.
The move by the Australian bank comes on the heels of US President Barak Obama visiting Myanmar last month, marking a significant step for the south-east Asian country as it opens to the world.
Myanmar, formerly and still known by many as Burma, has long been shunned by the West. But dramatic sweeping political and economic changes by the country’s new civilian government since early last year have been rewarded with the easing of trade restrictions.
Australia has already lifted its autonomous travel and financial sanctions on Myanmar, while the US lifted export bans in recent months.
For ANZ, approval from authorities in Myanmar to open a representative office, will see it become the first OECD bank outside of Japan to receive approval to establish a presence there. For banks, a representative office is often the the first step in securing a full-service branch licence.
“(This) will strengthen our capability to connect customers across our international network and to access opportunities in Myanmar, as well as connecting our clients in Myanmar with new trade and investment opportunities,” ANZ international chief Alex Thursby said.
Myanmar is seen as having growth potential for agriculture and oil and gas exports. It is also expected to become the next low-cost manufacturing hub.
ANZ’s licence is subject to final approvals and the representative office is expected to open in Yangon, the country’s largest city, in early in 2013.
In a statement, ANZ said it “continues to be committed to complying with all requirements related to ongoing sanctions”.
ANZ owns stakes in eight banks through Asia region, including Indonesia, Malaysia as well as two separate Chinese banks. Thailand and Myanmar are two countries ANZ has been targeting in recent years to round out its Asian push. ANZ is also eyeing a banking licence in Thailand in 2014 as the best way to break into that market.
The Asian partnerships are one element in chief executive Mike Smith's strategy for ANZ to generate 25 to 30 per cent of its revenue from outside Australia and New Zealand by 2017.