Tuesday, 19 August 2014


When the national players of industry and banking in Indonesia were busily discussing consolidating of the banking sector, Malaysian banks had already realized it. The banks in this neighboring country were far from making noises as they were small by number compared to Indonesia [120 banks].

The Indonesian banking community were surprised by the merger of 3 big banks in Malaysia. Very soon Malaysia would proclaim one more big bank in Southeast Asia with potential asset of Rp 2,300 trillion. This was due to merger of 3 banks, i.e. CIMB Group, RHB capital, and Malaysia Building Society. Although merger of these 3 banks triggered reaction from certain circles, the merger carried on as planned.

One of the responses was from international rating agency Fitch Ratings who rated that merger between the second largest bank in Malaysia : CIMB Group and RHB Capital and Malaysia Building Society [MBSB] had high risk. The engagement of the 3 banks would build one biggest bank in Malaysia.

Fitch believed that the merger between CIMB, RHB and MBSB was over ambitious and would provoke reactions amidst complicated process of merger. Last week, the three banks had agreed to enter the stage if negotiation for merger for the next 90 days. The 3 banks would merger to become the biggest Syariah bank in Malaysia.

As a country of the biggest economy in Southeast Asia next to Thailand and Indonesia, Malaysia planned to be a Syariah banking gateway in the region, so it was only natural that the 3 banks were trying to be big in a short time. This was for the second time that CMB and RHB strive to combine in the past 3 years. The consolidation plan was approved by the local Central Bank.

However Fitch did not agree because the process of merger was rated as complicated and might drain CIMB capital because they must finance two other banks which were smaller by size. Besides, the process of synchronizing policies and employees rights of the three banks was not easy. Besides slow growing credit would mean pressure on asset so the process was not easy. To combine big entities like CIMB and RHB takes a long time, moreover with additional MBSB, the merger process would be even mire complex.

However, if the three banks could merge successfully, they would not only become the biggest bank in Malaysia but also the fourth biggest bank in Southeast Asia with total asset of USD 194 billion and they would become the biggest Syariah bank in Malaysia.

How about Indonesia ? for one decade the polemics of banking consolidation in Indonesia had been on the surface, but realization was at standstill. What happened was just uproars and polemics which was unproductive and quite frequently associated with politics without relevance.

An example was when the Government threw a discourse of merging PT Bank Tabungan Negara and PT Bank Negara Indonesia in 2005 or with Bank Mandiri Persero Tbk in 2004. However, both plans got stuck as it triggered controversies and objections by many parties.

Many experts agreed that the trend today in global banking industry was: not too many banks, but the size must be big and strong. The trend of forming big banks was also happening in Europe, Asia, and the USA.

The bank with the biggest total asset in Indonesia, was only in 8th position among banks in the Asean region. It was easy to imagine in what position were the medium and small banks which numbered 110 banks. So how would these banks compete against Asean banks when the Asean Economic Community was in effect in 2020. Probably most of the local banks would be mere spectators. Ironical indeed!

So the rational choice was that Indonesian banks must consolidate whether by merger or by acquisition. Consolidation would enhance efficiency and productivity. The added value shareholders’ share would be better. It was right that the Government of RI encouraged local banks to consolidate through merger and acquisition, so sterling banks would emerge at home not to be overruled by foreign banks.

It was better if the number of banks were reduced but the size be expanded with capital support whereby to be more competitive at home and abroad. In short the Government and banking authorities must encourage domestic banks to consolidate through merger or by other corporate actions in order to be globally competitive. The merger was aimed at increasing size and reduce the number of banks.

Ideally Indonesian banks was in 10th position in Asia, not just in Asean. The point was Indonesia was a country with biggest GDP in Southeast Asia, while PT Bank Mandiri Tbk as Indonesia’s biggest bank was still at 8th position in Asia with capital amounting to USD 7.3 billion. Supposedly Bank Mandiri, PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia Tbk and PT Bank Negara Indonesia be the sterling banks in Asean.

At the moment the Top Big Three position in Southeast Asia was occupied by Singapore, i.e. DBS with total capital of USD 26.5 billion, UOB with capital of USD 19.2 billion and OCBC with USD 18 billion. So it was the right step if OJK continued to enhance consolidation of banks. Today there were some small banks reported to be doing consolidation.

Today there were 10 local banks which needed divestation as they scored bad composite level. They must do divestation or consolidation in accordance with the applicable rule. Moreover consolidation of banks was part of policy in the MP21 Masterplan.

Bank Regulator could not act alone to enhance consolidation of banks. OJK needed support of banking association at home, be it Perbanas, Himbara or Asbanda. With reference to MP21, prevalent bank owners were given the choice to develop their business.

In the short term, mega merger that involved 3 banks in Malaysia had no significant impact on banking business in Indonesia. However in the long run, such would support growth of non organic national banks. This was because consolidation in the banking industry was national resolution. The regulator offered incentives to those who do consolidation. For long Malaysia had been consistent about reducing their number of banks, which was their strategy in anticipating the Asean Free Market.

In the future, consolidation of banks must be the concern of all parties. Starting with making blueprint of the banking industry and consolidating systematically. The need was pressing and indispensable. The blueprint would bind all stakeholders like OJK, the Government, BUMN, and legislators. When all parties involved, policy needed not to change in case of change of Government. (SS)

Business New - July 23, 2014

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