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Thai tycoons heat up virtual bank bids as applications open

 

CHAROEN Pokmhand Group and Gulf Energy Development, among Thailand’s largest business groups, are vying for the country’s new virtual bank licences as the Bank of Thailand opens applications.

True Corp, a telecommunication arm of CP Group, and its partners including Ant Group are in the process of preparing a bid, said chairman Suphachai Chearavanont. Gulf Energy, the nation’s top power producer, will submit the bid in partnership with Krung Thai Bank and its affiliate Advanced Info Service, according to chief executive officer Sarath Ratanavadi.

South-east Asia’s second-largest economy is opening its banking industry to more competition that will allow greater access to loans for under-served consumers, following similar moves across Asia where such digital banks are already up and running. The central bank plans to announce the winning bidders next year as it began accepting applications from interested groups on Wednesday (Mar 20) until Sep 19.

“We have seen the greater importance of advanced technology in the financial industry,” Suphachai told reporters on Wednesday. Gaining a “virtual bank licence will help us reach out to a large group of consumers,” he said.

Gulf Energy expects getting a new virtual bank licence will help accelerate its expansion into online businesses such as cryptocurrency trading and digital lending, said Sarath, who spoke to reporters late on Tuesday.

Thailand may grant more than three such licences as it seeks to boost competition in the industry.

The Chearavanont family has a net worth of US$31 billion – making them one of Asia’s richest clans – according to the Bloomberg billionaires Index report. Sarath is Thailand’s second-richest person with net worth of about US$10 billion.

CP Group and Gulf Energy will join SCB X, which controls the country’s largest commercial lender by market value, in their bids. SCB X plans to announce a new partner from China this week to apply for the new virtual banking permit, CEO Arthid Nanthawithaya said. BLOOMBERG

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