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First Bank reopens outlet in Myanmar

TAIPEI--First Commercial Bank, the flagship banking arm of First Financial Holding Co., said Wednesday that it has reopened its representative office in Yangon, capital of Myanmar, making itself the first Taiwanese bank to have a foothold in the Southeast Asian country.

First Bank had set up a representative office in Yangon in 1998, but closed it in 2001 after taking the international political and financial climate into consideration at that time.

However, as Myanmar, which enjoys abundant natural and human resources, is gearing up to move the country ahead economically, the country has shown great potential for growth, First Bank officials said.

In addition, the Southeast Asian country has become a new destination for Taiwanese investors to relocate their funds, the bank said, adding that changes in Myanmar's investment environment prompted the bank to return to the Myanmar market.

The bank secured approval from the Financial Supervisory Commission, Taiwan's financial watchdog, in mid-2012 and obtained permission from Myanmar's financial authorities earlier this year to reopen its representative office in Yangon.

Including the Yangon office, First Bank currently operates 19 overseas outlets — 15 branches, two sub-branches and two representative offices — in several cities in the world, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Tokyo, New York, London, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Meanwhile, First Bank has set up a subsidiary — First Commercial Bank (USA) — in the United States, which runs seven branches in the U.S. market.

First Bank officials said as global economic attention shifts to the Asian Pacific region from the West, the bank has refocused its business on China and Southeast Asia, and its presence in Yangon is expected to extend the bank's reach in the region.

First Bank is waiting for approval from China's financial authorities to open a branch in Chengdu of Sichuan Province and other outlets in a rural area of Henan Province, while the bank is also looking for acquisition opportunities in Indonesia, Thailand and Laos.

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