Although the collapse of the US sub- prime mortgage market, and the mid-March collapse of US investment bank Bear Sterns, is hitting the reputation and capacity of many of the world’s biggest financial institutions, it is the scale of global giants such as HSBC, Citigroup and The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) that puts them in such a strong position.

It is only these institutions that have had the professional and financial capability to put together the multi-billion-dollar debt packages required in the region. Currently, local banks are unable to compete at this level. But the market is shifting.

The rapid expansion of the region’s project sector provides an opportunity for local institutions to take a far greater role in project finance, and governments in the region are keen for local institutions to raise their capital levels through mergers, acquisitions and listings.

The growth of the Islamic finance market presents another opportunity for regional banks. Borrowers seeking sharia-compliant finance prefer to obtain it from local Islamic institutions. But unless such banks make efforts to grow their assets, international firms will maintain their market-leading position.

Special Report: Banking – Index of all stories