ING Wholesale Banking says it has signalled its ongoing commitment to Southeast Asia by establishing a Thailand representative office in Bangkok. The newly established office will be led by Stephen Briones, who has served as Thailand country head for the group since July 2004.

ôIn terms of functionality, the banking office will not really change,ö says Briones. ôHowever, seeing the solid opportunities for growth it Thailand, establishing a representative office does send the message of our long-term commitment to the country.ö

ING has had a long history in Thailand. Recent deals include advising Banpu on its $84 million acquisition of four coal-fired plants in China. ING Wholesale has also a worked on a $130 project financing of Gulf ElectricÆs subsidiary, Gulf Power generation Company, for a greenfield gas-fired power plant.

ING Wholesale Banking's announcement follows recent approvals from the Bank of Thailand and Ministry of Commerce, which will allow the firm to undertake economic and market research, collection of data in support of crossborder financial advisory and activities in the country to support clientsÆ financing.

ING Wholesale Banking says it is now looking to expand its product offerings in Thailand, including bolstering the DCM, derivatives and advisory services businesses.

ôWeÆll undoubtedly look at expanding our product offering to broader and more creative DCM products and financial market services,ö Briones adds. ôIn Thailand, bonds are pricing games and the liquidity is tight. We also expect to see more structured finance deals in the country.ö

The firm also touts cross-border M&A as an increasing business in Thailand, as European and regional corporates look to expand exposure in the market.