Vietnam’s Vietcombank Approaches PE Firms

Vietnam’s Vietcombank has approached private equity funds and sovereign wealth funds as it attempts to raise $500 million, Reuters reported. The government of Vietnam had appointed Credit Suisse Group as an adviser to sell a 20 percent stake in Vietcombank and invited first round bids by May 23, Reuters wrote. The government owns 90.7 percent of Vietcombank.

(Reuters) – Private equity funds, foreign banks and sovereign wealth funds are among those approached to buy a $500 million stake in Vietnam’s Vietcombank , a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The government of Vietnam had appointed Credit Suisse Group AG as an adviser to sell a 20 percent stake in Vietcombank and invited first round bids by May 23, the source added.

Strategic foreign ownership in Vietnam’s banking sector is capped at 15 percent, although it can be increased to 20 percent with government approval.

A Vietcombank official, who declined to be named, said the bank was hoping to complete the deal this year or early next year. Credit Suisse declined comment.

The source declined to be identified as the matter was not public.

The government owns 90.7 percent of Vietcombank, or Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, the nation’s second-biggest partly private bank by assets.

Vietcombank shares ended up 4.8 percent at 30,900 dong on Tuesday, compared with a 1.5 percent fall in the benchmark Vietnam Index .

Vietnam is seeing increased interest from buyout firms, drawn to the country’s young population, low valuations and development potential, as competition for assets in China and India pushes them into frontier markets to invest their capital.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co LP , Mount Kellett Capital and TPG Capital LP all have prior investments in the country. In April, KKR said it would pay $159 million for 10 percent of Masan Consumer Group, the country’s largest-ever private equity investment.

The proposed sale follows a government decision last month to add more restrictions on foreign investment in Vietnamese banks. Foreign investors seeking to buy 15 percent or more of a state-owned bank must have total assets of at least $20 billion in the year before the purchase, the central bank said last month.

Vietnam has five fully state-owned banks: Agribank, BIDV, Mekong Delta Housing Bank, Vietnam Development Bank and Vietnam Bank for Social Policies.

Analysts expect the country’s small to mid-sized banks, particularly joint stock banks, to come into focus for investors, as many need to increase capital. [ID:TOE71604K]. Fitch Ratings has noted that non-performing loans at Vietnamese banks are generally understated.

VietinBank and Vietcombank, which were previously fully state-owned, now have shares listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange , but neither has a strategic foreign investor.

Hanoi-based VietinBank, or the Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade, is 10 percent owned by International Finance Corp. (Reporting by Stephen Aldred and Hanoi Newsroom; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Chris Lewis)