(Bloomberg) -- The newly installed chairman of a Vietnamese lender is betting on attracting more foreign ownership for his lender with a convertible bond strategy.

Ho Chi Minh City Development JSC Bank Chairman Kim Byoungho said he’s currently selecting an overseas strategic partner as he pushes on with a plan to issue up to $500 million in foreign bonds that can convert into shares further down the line.

“We’ve seen strong interest from overseas investors into our bank,” Kim said in an interview Thursday. He expects earnings at the lender, known as HDBank, to be “historically high” this year with 18% credit growth. The 61-year-old spent about three decades running a leading South Korean lender, and started in the role in April.

As Vietnam’s central bank moves to allow more foreign ownership of some banks, lifting the limit from 30% to 49%, lenders are looking for ways to attract capital that can help them expand. Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. is one of the few international banks in the country with its stake in Vietnam JSC Bank for Industry and Trade, known as VietinBank.

HDBank’s plan to raise up to $500 million worth of international convertible bonds still needs approval from shareholders. Bondholders will have the option to convert their holdings into shares to become strategic partners, according to Kim. HDBank is also open to having strategic tie-ups with international financial institutions via direct share sales, Kim said. 

HDBank forecasts its pretax profit to be more than 10 trillion dong ($408 million) this year, rising 25% from 8 trillion dong last year, according to Kim. Its total assets rose to about 400 trillion dong, up around 7% from a year ago.

Shares of the bank, with a market capitalization of 41.5 trillion dong, has fallen 33% this year, outpacing the decline in the benchmark stock index.

Separately, against a regulatory crackdown that has dealt a heavy blow to Vietnam’s real estate developers, Kim said HDBank doesn’t have much exposure to corporate bonds issued by property companies. The bank’s holding of corporate bonds is “very small, only about 1% of total assets,” he said.

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