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First Bank obtains FSC approval to open branch in Laos

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- First Commercial Bank (第一銀行), the flagship banking arm of First Financial Holding Co. (第一金控), has obtained the green light from the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) to open a branch in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

First Bank said it will seek approval from financial authorities in Laos to open the branch as soon as possible. The Vientiane branch would be the first foothold established in Laos by a Taiwan bank.

Since 1998 when Laos joined the ASEAN Investment Area, a free trade zone in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, foreign funds have been flooding into the country, creating plenty of business opportunities there, the bank said.

With the establishment of its Vientiane branch, First Bank said, it will provide a wide range of services to Taiwanese and Chinese investors operating in the Southeast Asian country.

Like its branch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Vientiane branch will target small and medium-sized enterprises in a bid to lock in profits in the emerging economy, the bank said.

The banking sector in Laos tends to offer a relatively large interest spread, which could boost banks' bottom lines, according to First Bank.

First Bank has a broad network in Asia, with branches and representative offices in 10 Asian cities, including Phnom Penh, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.

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