Subject: For ANZ, Timor is going places

For ANZ, Timor is going places

Herald Sun

Fleur Leyden Banking

July 27, 2009 12:00am

IT MAY look like any other suburban bank, but ANZ's Dili branch is one of the group's fastest growing outlets in the world.

Customer foot traffic has been increasing by 2 per cent a week for over a year, new accounts are up 80 per cent over the past year, while lending has doubled.

As one of only three commercial banks in the country, ANZ is operating in an economy which last year had the second-highest growth rate in the world and which has also managed to avoid the wrath of the financial meltdown.

Despite being one of the world's poorest nations East Timor has $US4.75 billion-plus ($A5.8 billion) in oil and gas revenue invested in US Treasury bonds.

The government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao last year dipped into this so-called Petroleum Fund to lift the nation's yearly budget by more than 120 per cent to $US788 million, allocating $US240 million to an economic stabilisation fund to combat rising fuel and food prices.

This money is beginning to flow through to the streets of Dili, where most people still live on less than $US1 a day.

Chris Durman, chief executive of ANZ Timor-Leste, says more people are doing business in the fledgling nation, foreign investment is beginning to trickle in and the tourism trade is beginning to sprout wings.

"It's just going gangbusters here year on year," he told BusinessDaily.

"We are seeing more and more backpackers in the streets, there are backpacker lodges, the hotels are doing a roaring trade and through all this we'll have the Tour de Timor (cycling event) which I believe has attracted some of the most senior cyclists from around the world."

Government figures reveal that 3500 cars were registered in the March quarter, up from 600 in the same period two years ago.

Combined lending across the country, between all banks and micro-lending institutions, cracked $US100 million in the first three months of this year.

And 10,000 people visited the country between January and March, a fifth of these from Australia.

Vital infrastructure such as roads and transport services still need to be developed and a regulatory framework for business needs to be established so foreigners can operate in the country with confidence.

But Mr Durman says the future is "incredibly bright".

"ANZ is extremely confident and bullish about the future," he says.

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