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Time to build a banking empire

Branches in Asia: 90 (excluding Malaysia)
Present in: 8 countries

Asian loan book: $3.9 billion

Like Bangkok Bank in Thailand, Malaysia's Maybank may find its ambitions to be a strong regional player thwarted by difficulties at home. "We expect Maybank to be preoccupied with domestic problems over the next two to three years," says Ramos at Goldman Sachs, "in particular non-performing loans and restructuring support of industries and companies deemed strategically important by the Malaysian government. We do not expect Maybank to have the time, inclination or resources to expand offshore unless and until the Malaysian economy is back on track."

But in recent years, Maybank had set its sights firmly on international expansion. In the bank's 1996 annual report, chairman Mohamed Basir bin Ahmad stated: "The group will continue to expand its regional presence but this will not be limited to commercial banking activities only but also other activities such as insurance and stockbroking in which the group has expertise. We are confident that we will not only be a leader in the domestic market but also a regional player of significance."

The following year Maybank followed these words with actions, buying a 60% stake in PNB-Republic Bank of the Philippines for Ps880 million ($22 million).

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