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CIMB Thai Bank looks beyond loans for growth amid sluggish economy

BANGKOK, June 16 (Reuters) - CIMB Thai Bank Pcl is targeting 20 percent growth this year in fees from underwriting bonds, merger advice and investment products, in a strategic shift towards non-interest income as appetite for credit in Thailand wanes, its CEO said.

Thailand's economy is underperforming regional peers as consumers and small firms pay off debts accrued under a populist government toppled by the military in 2014. Growth is forecast at just over 3 percent for 2016, up from 2.8 percent in 2015.

"The economy will continue to be quite sluggish," CIMB Thai Chief Executive Subhak Siwaraksa told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. "We have adjusted our business strategy. You have to recognise that as a bank now we do more than loans."

CIMB Thai Bank, a unit of Malaysia's CIMB Group Holding Bhd , is Thailand's ninth-biggest lender by assets.

Revenue generated from the non-interest side of the business accounted for about 40 percent of the firm's total, Subhak said. The firm is one of Thailand's top-two bond underwriters and has about 50 percent of the market in structured products, he said.

CIMB Thai still expected to grow its retail loan portfolio 10 percent this year, and corporate loans by 10-15 percent, he said, even with relatively slow economic growth.

The bank's bad loan portfolio should peak in 2017 at around 4 percent, he said, up from below 3 percent now. (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Simon Webb; Additional reporting by Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)