Vietnam economic growth to quicken to 6.5 pct this year, ANZ says

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Vietnam's economic growth will quicken to about 6.5 percent this year, according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.'s Chief Executive Officer Michael Smith.

"Vietnam has proved to be very resilient in the global downturn," Smith said at a press conference in Hanoi Tuesday. "If we look at the overall attractiveness of emerging markets," Vietnam "still offers huge opportunities," he said.

The South-East Asian economy grew 5.3 percent in 2009, the slowest since 1999. The central bank has kept interest rates unchanged since raising the benchmark rate to a one-year high of 8 percent in December to slow inflation. Consumer prices rose 8.5 percent in February, the biggest increase in 10 months.

The State Bank of Vietnam will have to lift interest rates again at some point, according to Smith. "It's a difficult balancing act" because a "quick rise" in rates would slow economic growth, he said.

ANZ, Australia's fourth-largest lender, was one of the first foreign banks to enter Vietnam in 1993, according to a press release from the company.

The Melbourne-based bank in October 2008 got a license from the State Bank of Vietnam to become a wholly foreign-owned bank in Vietnam. ANZ has invested more than $400 million in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia over the last five years, Smith said.

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