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Bank Central Asia: The best bank you’ve (probably) never heard of

It is loved by analysts and fund managers, with impeccable ratios and a market cap that sometimes trumps DBS as the largest in Asean, yet it is determinedly domestic and focused on its native Indonesia – meet Bank Central Asia.

Illustration: Peter Crowther

There was a minor kerfuffle last February when DBS was briefly dethroned as southeast Asia’s largest bank by market capitalization. These things do not much matter of course, but still it was striking that the multinational Singaporean had been overtaken in value. 

So who was this usurper? Fellow Singaporeans OCBC or UOB? Malaysia-based Asean specialists Maybank or CIMB? No, the answer was Indonesia’s Bank Central Asia (BCA).

Although the name is little known outside Indonesia, BCA has long been very popular with anyone who has invested in it. It is adored by the markets, where main competitor Mandiri trades at a price-to-book value of 1.9 and DBS 1.15; at BCA it is over four. The share price is up over 800% since February 2009. Yet it is still rated a buy by brokers from Nomura to DBS. Big names on the shareholder register include Vanguard, T Rowe Price, BlackRock, Fidelity and Aberdeen.


Why? Look at the numbers: 18.3%

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