KUALA LUMPUR – AMMB Holdings Bhd, which has until end of this month to conclude exclusive negotiations with RHB Bank Bhd on the proposed merger, will become an instant regional banking outfit if the merger with RHB goes through.

AMMB group CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir said RHB has presence in nine countries while AMMB has no exposure overseas.

“The combined entities will complement each other,” he told a press conference after AMMB’s AGM yesterday.

Sulaiman said it has approval from Bank Negara Malaysia to conduct both exclusive and non-exclusive discussions on the merger until year-end. After August, it can start non-exclusive negotiations with other entities.

“In any merger exercise, once we have an idea of what we want to do, we want to do it fast. Once we made up our mind, the idea is go towards that (merger) as soon as possible,” he said without committing to a timeline.

He said it is still early to tell whether there will be job cuts following the merger, but it will need to go through the process of a mutual separation scheme should it decide to.

“Even if we don’t merge, we always look at opportunity to revisit our processes. It’s not about job cut but redeployment, particularly on the front line, is there opportunity to deploy into new job scopes, the change in environment and customers’ expectation.”

Sulaiman said AMMB is keen on the merger with RHB, as it is commercially driven and there are many areas that are complementary, in terms of regional presence, investment banking, fund management, Islamic banking, which all leads to a better entity and footprint.

“Larger banks have the opportunity to grow investments and have a bigger customer base, and when you do investments in terms of technology, it gives you economies of scale.”

AMMB’s top four aspirations by FY2020 include wanting to be the top four in each of its four growth segments; four focus products; current engines and the best employers in Malaysia.

“If the merger happens, we become top three/top four almost immediately. If it doesn’t happen, we’re still on track to meet our top four visions by 2020,” said Sulaiman.

Meanwhile, Sulaiman said it is premature to tell what is going to happen on the Retirement Fund Inc’s (KWAP) interest to purchase the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd’s (ANZ) stake after the proposed merger.

He said ANZ remains AMMB’s major shareholder today but the number of expatriates at AMMB has reduced to only one or two now, from 22 at one time, signalling that AMMB has reached a level of maturity.

AMMB closed 0.20% higher at RM4.95 while RHB fell 0.60% to RM5 yesterday.