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Banking

Cambodia’s growl too quiet to be Asia’s next tiger yet

The country is looking to the future under a pro-investment government. Foreign banks, private equity funds and manufacturers are interested, but there’s no guaranteed alpha on the Mekong. Lawrence White reports.

The cost of doing business

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DRIVE NORTH OUT of Phnom Penh for 10 minutes or so and you’ll reach a flat stretch of dark yellow sand where the southernmost shore of Pong Peay lake used to be. At first it doesn’t look like much: children play in the remaining streets of the shanty town, rickety stalls sell drinks to a handful of Khmer idling on parked motorbikes. Then comes the sign: a huge arch proclaiming "New History is COMING" straddles the dirt road, and in the background cranes tower over half-built apartment blocks that dominate the flat land around them. A new city is being built.

Funded by Korean banks and built by Korea’s Hanil Engineering, Camko City – the name is a conflation of Cambodia and Korea – will offer apartments, houses, villas, a hospital, a school and a business district to house Cambodia’s new stock exchange. The latter, a joint venture with the Korean Stock Exchange, is to open in September 2009.

Back in Phnom Penh, Korean construction firm GS continues work on the new $1 billion, 52-storey IFC building that will tower over the city’s low skyline when it is completed in 2012.

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