The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) wants Vietinbank and Vietcombank to become the leading banks of Vietnam, and boost their scale at the regional level.

SBV Governor Nguyen Van Binh made the announcement at a Vietinbank meeting last week, adding that this is part of a restructuring scheme for the domestic banking system. "This is a difficult task," he told the local press.

Binh said the central bank needs Vietinbank to actively take part in the general process of handling weak lenders, by providing assistance related to human resources, management experience and prestige.

He specified that the industry and trade bank can combine efforts by merging with a smaller bank, and any merger will not financially hurt it, but will promptly help it expand its network.

The governor expressed a similar viewpoint during a Vietcombank meeting a week earlier, when he confirmed that the foreign trade lender is set to merge with Saigonbank as part of a systematic reform process.

Vietinbank General Director Le Duc Tho said the bank will follow SBV's policies. “This is an opportunity for the market, as well as a necessary condition for reorganising and enhancing the overall management capacity of the banking system…We are likely to face many issues that the system is required to deal with."

With regards to market speculations that Vietinbank will merge with PGBank, he said related issues are being processed and information will be publicised at a suitable time. Unless Vietinbank makes an official announcement about this, everything will just be considered a rumour, he noted.

Tho said Vietinbank fulfilled its pre-tax profit target of 7.3 trillion VND (347.62 million USD) last year, with asset values totalling 660 trillion VND (31.43 billion USD) on December 31, up 14.6 percent from the previous year.

In 2014, its total outstanding loans touched 544 trillion VND (25.90 billion USD), reflecting a year-on-year jump of 18.2 percent, with bad debts representing 0.89 percent of the amount. The total deposits were pegged at 596 trillion VND (28.38 billion USD), rising 16.4 percent, from a year ago.

The bank aims to maintain last year's profit growth this year as well and expects its total assets to increase by at least 15 percent. It has projected deposit and loan growth at 13 to 15 percent, with the non-performing loan ratio expected to be less than 3 percent.

Vietcombank Chairman Nghiem Xuan Thanh reported that the bank earned 5.68 trillion VND (270.48 million USD) in pre-tax profits last year, up 2 percent from the previous year.
In 2014, deposits at the bank grew by nearly 26 percent and outstanding loans expanded by nearly 18 percent year-on-year, while the bad debt ratio falling by 0.4 percent year-on-year to 2.29 percent.

SBV officials said about six merger and acquisition (M&A) deals will take place this year and mentioned the possible adoption of strong measures, such as dissolutions, bankruptcies and compulsory M&As for reinvigorating the banking system's health.-VNA