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Vietnam's central bank to acquire 52 percent stake in PVcomBank
By Thanh Nien News -
The State Bank of Vietnam has approved a plan to acquire a stake of 52 percent in state-controlled PVcombank as part of the ongoing restructuring process at the medium-sized lender, local media reported on Wednesday.
The stake is currently held by national oil giant PetroVietnam and the change of ownership will not cost the central bank money, news website VnExpress said, citing a plan that PVcombank is expected to present to shareholders.
Established in 2013 from a merger between PetroVietnam Finance Corp. and Western Bank, the lender officially known as Vietnam Public Joint Stock Commercial Bank has a charter capital of VND9 trillion ($398 million). Morgan Stanley currently owns a stake of 6.66 percent, according to the bank's website.
PVcomBank reported a net profit of VND56 billion (US$2.47 million) last year, down 39 percent from 2014.
Vietnam has asked state-owned enterprises to pull out of sectors that are not their main business areas. As PetroVietnam planned its divestment from PVcomBank, the central bank emerged as a suitable candidate to take over the shares, local media reported. 
Last year the central bank took over three small loss-making lenders -- Global Petro Bank, Vietnam Construction Bank and Ocean Commercial Bank -- at zero dong, after their reportedly failed restructuring attempts.
The acquisitions were part of the central bank's efforts to restructure the overcrowded banking sector that was blamed for dragging on the economy with bad debts in previous years.
The central bank has orchestrated 12 mergers among 22 commercial banks and four financial companies. Another five mergers between five banks and five financial companies organizations approved by the central bank over the years are waiting for conclusion.
Vietnam now has 43 banks, including six wholly foreign owned. That number is expected to be reduced to 20-25 in the next two years, according to the central bank's plan.
The banking sector's bad debts were equivalent to 2.62 percent of total loans at the end of March, compared to 2.55 percent at the end of last year, official data showed.