Japan's SMBC bank says will help Myanmar lender

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. said Tuesday it will lend technical support to Myanmar's biggest commercial bank as it looks to tap the country as it embarks on reforms that ended decades of isolation.

SMBC, the retail banking unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, said it signed an agreement on Monday with Kanbawza Bank, Myanmar's largest commercial bank, with an eye to expanding its presence in the country.

The Japanese firm said it will advise the Myanmar lender on banking operations and help train its employees, a Sumitomo spokesman said.

"The (agreement) is the first of its kind signed between a Japanese bank and a private bank in Myanmar since the recent progress in democratisation in Myanmar," the Japanese lender said in a statement on Tuesday.

"While considering possibilities, including a future business tie-up between the two banks, we aim to build our supporting system for our clients entering into the country," it said.

The move comes as Myanmar prepares for an economic resurgence following the end of decades of military rule, which in turn is attracting attention from firms all over the world seeking a piece of the potentially lucrative market.

Tokyo has said it would forgive about $3.7 billion of Myanmar's debt and resume suspended aid as Japanese firms continue a push into the country, which has rolled out a host of democratic reforms -- winning praise from the West.

Japan and Myanmar have started talks on an investment treaty, with a second round of negotiations slated to begin on Wednesday in the capital Naypyidaw.

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