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Bank of Hawaii delays American Samoa exit indefinitely

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    Bank of Hawaii is keeping its Utulei branch open in American Samoa until a "suitable replacement can be found."

Bank of Hawaii, which twice delayed its planned departure from American Samoa, is now planning to stay in the U.S. territory for an indefinite period.

The state’s second-largest bank will keep the Utulei branch open until a suitable replacement can be found, said Peter Ho, chairman, president and CEO of Bank of Hawaii.

Ho made that decision after meeting with American Samoa Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga on Monday morning at the bank’s downtown headquarters.

“I am very humbled, overwhelmed and (left) speechless by Chairman, President and CEO Peter Ho and Bank of Hawaii’s continued commitment and great sensitivity to the needs of the people of American Samoa reflected in his approval of my plea for help to extend Bank of Hawaii’s departure time line beyond March 14,” Moliga said in a statement.

Ho said it is evident that additional time would be beneficial for the local community.

“Our commitment is to provide a smooth transition for our customers and the American Samoa government, and we will not leave until we are comfortable that the depository needs of the territory can be appropriately accommodated,” Ho said in a statement. “We want to be supportive.”

Bankoh, which has been in American Samoa for more than 40 years, closed the small Tafuna branch on March 15 of this year but has since extended the close of the Utulei branch — first by 90 days until June 14, 2013, and then by 12 months to March 14, 2014.

Ho has said the bank was leaving American Samoa because it was in the best interest for the bank’s shareholders to make Bankoh a more efficient operation and that American Samoa is geographically isolated from the bank’s other markets.

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