Malayan Banking, Malaysia’s largest lender, is seeking to increase corporate lending and investment banking activities in Indonesia to help shelter it from slower economic growth in its home country.
Maybank, as the company is known, will focus on lending to large companies in the transport, utilities and consumer businesses in Indonesia, Feisal Zahir, the firm’s global banking head, said Tuesday in his first media interview since he assumed the position in October.
He declined to provide the bank’s financial targets for Indonesia this year.
Slower economic growth in Malaysia, which accounted for 60 percent of Maybank’s 2014 loan book, augurs weaker lending for banks in the country, Feisal said.
The government is forecasting growth this year to be as low as 4.5 percent, which would be the slowest pace since a contraction in 2009.
“Indonesia is a key focus for us this year,” Feisal, 45, said in Singapore. “There’s a huge natural resource base, population base and middle-class income that is growing as a consumer group. The outlook is pretty strong” for growth.
Indonesia’s economy may grow 5.2 percent this year, the World Bank estimates. Maybank had 31.4 billion ringgit ($8.5 billion) of Indonesian loans last year, or almost 8 percent of its total loan book, according to its financial statement.
The bank owns 79 percent of Bank Internasional Indonesia.
“I am sure there will be speed bumps here and there,” Feisal said. “But we want to grow the market in the long term” in Indonesia.
Maybank is also positive on the economic outlook in other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, he said.
The bank is talking with regulators to expand into banking in Thailand, where it currently has a brokerage unit, chief executive Abdul Farid Alias told reporters on Tuesday in Singapore, where Maybank is hosting a two-day conference.
“We have yet to find an avenue that makes sense to us,” he said. “It’s not just [mergers and acquisitions], it could be setting up a new license” for commercial banking, he said.
The global-banking division accounted for 51 percent of Maybank’s 2014 profit before tax, Feisal said.
Its operations include investment banking, asset management, global markets and corporate banking.
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