Vietnam's Sacombank may sell 15pct stake to Credit Suisse

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Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Joint- Stock Bank may sell as much as a 15 percent stake to Credit Suisse Group AG, the Vietnamese lender's Chief Executive Officer said.

The bank's stock rose to the highest level in almost a month in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sacombank, as the lender is known, will start negotiations with Zurich-based Credit Suisse on a sale next month, Tran Xuan Huy said in a phone interview on Wednesday. He declined to comment on the value of the stake or timing of the transaction.

"We want to sell to Credit Suisse as much as the current law allows us to do, which would be 15 percent," Huy said. The share sale "can happen gradually until the stake reaches the maximum both sides agree on."

A Sacombank stake sale would follow Mizuho Financial Group Inc.'s agreement to buy a 15 percent stake in state-owned Joint- Stock Commercial Bank, or Vietcombank, as Vietnamese banks look to foreign investors for capital support. Central bank Governor Nguyen Van Binh is encouraging mergers and acquisitions to bolster weaker banks, and said last month consolidating its 42 lenders into 15 large ones would improve economic stability.

Credit Suisse and Sacombank signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday to help the banks "strengthen their competitiveness," according to an e-mailed statement from Sacombank. Adam Harper, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Credit Suisse, declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg Wednesday.

Shares of Sacombank gained 1.4 percent, to close at VND15,000 on Wednesda, the highest level since Nov. 23 on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange. The benchmark VN Index added 0.6 percent, to 367.72.

HSBC Holdings Plc, Standard Chartered Plc and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. are among foreign banks that have invested in Vietnamese banks and opened branches in the Southeast Asian country to tap into a consumer market that Credit Suisse Group AG describes as "under-banked" in an August report.

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