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Governor speaks of options regarding BoH departure

fili@samoanews.com

Gov. Togiola Tulafono is in discussion with certain businesses for the possibility of forming a company or entity to take over local banking needs when Bank of Hawai’i closes down next year leaving only ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank to serve the territory.

Speaking on his weekend radio program, the governor said he was informed last week by  BoH about plans to shut down its two branches. (Togiola returned to the territory last week Monday following meetings in Taiwan)

Additionally, he was told by bank officials that there is no other option for them at this point, as the bank has tried to sell its local operations and assets to a buyer to handle banking services, but that was unsuccessful, and therefore the bank is moving forward with their closing process.

Hobbs Lowson said Nov. 30th in a news release that the bank wants to focus on its core markets in Guam and Hawai’i. He told Samoa News early last week that the bank had sought a buyer for its operations, but was unable to reach an agreement and therefore the bank is moving forward with plans to close the two local branches on Mar. 15, 2013 — but will still consider any new offer.

Togiola said he will continue discussions with certain businesses on whether something can be done to either purchase local BoH operations through an established entity, or set up a company that can handle some type of financial institution services in the territory when BoH leaves.

He stated part of the discussions was the possibility of forming an entity or company that can provide banking services.

While his administration has only a few weeks left in office, the governor said, that shouldn’t be an obstacle in finding a solution to this surprising news from BoH. 

The governor said he cannot provide any specific details or the names of the businesses involved in these discussions to protect confidentiality issues.

Togiola did say that any result of these discussions and other information will be relayed to the incoming administration of governor-elect Lolo Matalasi Moliga and lt. governor-elect, Lemanu Peleti Mauga for them to pursue, since his administration won’t be able do deal with it this year.

It is Togiola’s hope that there will be another bank or similar type of financial institution  in place prior to BoH’s actual departure date.

Responding to Samoa News request for comments, Department of Commerce deputy director Lelei Peau, last week said “we are saddened to see the Bank of Hawaii withdraw from American Samoa. It has been an important part of American Samoa’s financial infrastructure for over forty years.

“We appreciate Bank of Hawaii’s determination to pursue an orderly transition for the benefit of American Samoa patrons.

“I am sure the American Samoa Government will begin an immediate consideration of options for the future to maintain commercial banking capacity in American Samoa.”

Meanwhile, a member of the Lolo/Lemanu transition team — who contacted Samoa News after hearing the governor’s radio program dealing with BoH — claimed that the incoming administration plans to send a letter soon to BoH headquarters in Honolulu asking the bank to delay their departure.

The member, who didn’t want to be identified by name, said a delay would allow the incoming administration to find another U.S. bank to enter the local market or at least convince BoH to remain here for a much longer time.



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