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Green light for ANZ as Burma bans ease

ANZ has insisted it would comply with all remaining sanctions on Burma as it secured regulatory approval for a representative office in the once-reclusive nation.

The move comes on the heels of US President Barack Obama visiting Burma last month, marking a big step for the south-east Asian country as it opens to the world.

Burma has long been shunned by the West, but recent political and economic changes by the country's new civilian government have been rewarded with the easing of trade restrictions.

Australia has already lifted its autonomous travel and financial sanctions, while the US lifted export bans in recent months.

For ANZ, approval from authorities in Burma 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 first step in securing a full-service branch licence.

"[This] will strengthen our capability to connect customers across our international network … as well as connecting our clients in Myanmar [Burma] with new trade and investment opportunities," ANZ international chief Alex Thursby said.

Burma 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 Rangoon, the country's largest city, early in 2013.

ANZ said it "continues to be committed to complying with all requirements related to ongoing sanctions".

ANZ owns stakes in eight banks in Asia, including in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as two separate Chinese banks. Thailand and Burma are two countries ANZ has been targeting 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.

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