Spreading Out

Mar 10, 2011 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Sampath Bank said it plans to set up 40 branches this year, including some in the former north-east war zone, hire more staff and look for mergers as margins get thinner. Sampath Bank chairman I W Senanayake said they opened 40 new branches in 2010 alone, adding to the 19 set up the previous year, and at least 40 more branches are planned for 2011.

Many of the new branches will be in the north and east which are recovering after the end of the island’s 30-year ethnic war in 2009.

“Already recognized as the largest private sector bank in the east, we will continue to bridge economic disparity within the provinces by adding more branches to our existing network of 11 branches in the north and 13 in the east.

“The industry has never witnessed expansion of such magnitude into largely under-banked areas and communities,” Senanayake told shareholders in the annual report.

Managing director Harris Premaratne said the fall in interest rates was a “tough call” for the entire banking sector which led to “thinning margins.”

But lower interest rates should lead to larger business volumes and should off-set the low net interest margins.

“We are activel