Headlines

DBS needs more time to
acquire Bank Danamon

Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd. has submitted all the required documents to acquire Bank Danamon, but it will most likely take some time before Bank Indonesia (BI) makes a decision on what has been billed Southeast Asia’s largest bank acquisition, a senior executive with the banking regulator says.

The DBS Group lodged all the necessary paperwork in December and the central bank was currently assessing the proposal, BI Deputy Governor Halim Alamsyah said in an interview with The Jakarta Post on Monday evening.

The statement was the first update given by BI on the acquisition proposal for the country’s sixth-largest bank since it was first unveiled last April.

Halim said that by the end of this month, BI would issue a new central bank regulation (PBI) that would clarify the future of the DBS-Danamon deal, as it would stipulate the technical details and directives on share ownership among the banks.

“We are finalizing a circular that will be issued in the form of a PBI on banking ownership later this month. That’s our answer [regarding the update of DBS’ acquisition plan]. I don’t know whether this is enough, but one should understand that this case is ‘market sensitive’,” he said at BI headquarters.

Halim did not disclose whether all the documents submitted to purchase Danamon met BI’s demands, but he claimed that the central bank would process all mergers and takeovers — not only the DBS Group’s – in accordance with BI’s mission to strengthen Indonesia’s banking sector ahead of the integration of the ASEAN banking system in 2020.

The DBS Group announced last April that it would be buying a 99 percent stake in Danamon for US$6.8 billion to create Indonesia’s fifth-largest lender by assets.

The deal became high-profile after it encountered opposition from Indonesian politicians and local bankers, who were worried about the increasing dominance of foreign lenders in the country’s banking industry.

Consequently, the acquisition plan has made little progress in the 10 months since the plan was first unveiled. During this period, BI has provided few updates on the future of the DBS-Danamon deal, although last year it introduced several new regulations that would affect the bank takeover.

Among BI’s new regulations affecting the deal are an ownership cap of 40 percent in local banks (exemptions given for banks with sound capital and good corporate governance), and the revision of the single-presence policy, which effectively obliges the DBS Group to form an Indonesian holding company or merge its local subsidiary, PT DBS Indonesia, with Danamon, should its plan to acquire Danamon proceed.

Asked why the deal was taking so long to be completed, Halim said that he “understood the deal had been anticipated by the market” but he added that any banking acquisition could not be rushed.

“It does not mean that Bank Indonesia is not transparent [on the DBS acquisition plan]; it is just because studying their documents, in accordance with our regulations, requires time,” the deputy governor said.

Analysts have attributed the protracted negotiations to BI using the deal as a bargaining chip to grant Indonesian banks greater access to expand in Singapore, whose banking sector is among the most protectionist in Asia.

BI Governor Darmin Nasution once admitted that communications with Singapore’s central bank over the issue had turned “political”.

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