More bank mergers in the offing

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The Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam Nguyen Van Binh said Vietnam will focus on restructuring banks, aiming to improve their corporate governance and financial situation.

This year, mergers and acquisitions will be conducted among 5-8 banks, he said Wednesday. Late last year, the central bank, for the first time, approved the merger of three small banks that faced liquidity problems.

The country will focus on dealing with liquidity problems in the first quarter and then adjust policy interest rates to more suitable levels. Interest rates will be stable in the three months through March, he said.

If inflation eases to 9 percent, deposit rates will fall to between 11 and 10 percent, Binh said. 2012 will be a hard year, a challenging year for the Vietnamese economy. Slowing inflation is a prerequisite for interest rates to drop, but it does not always happen like that, he said.

Inflation hike this year may be less than 12 percent at worst and 8-8.5 percent in a good scenario, Binh said.

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The country would continue its tightened monetary policy in 2012, limiting loans to non-production sectors, he said. It targets a credit growth of 15-17 percent this year, compared to 13 percent in 2011.

It aims at a balance of payments surplus of US$3-5 billion, and enough foreign-exchange reserves to cover 12-15 weeks of imports by 2012, he said. The country also targets a GDP growth of 6-6.5 percent this year.

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