Dubai World's debt crisis has shaken stock markets worldwide and dented the confidence of international investors in the Middle East, but it has failed to put a damper on the expansion plans of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which opened its first Asian branch in Hong Kong yesterday. 'We have been planning to expand here in Asia for 20 to 40 years. We are not coming here for a one-week media report,' said Michael Tomalin, the group chief executive. The bank, one of the largest in the United Arab Emirates, opened the branch in Central a week after Dubai's state investment firm announced it needed a debt restructuring plan. On Tuesday, Dubai World said it was working with creditors to delay payments on US$26 billion of its US$59 billion in debt obligations. The restructuring plan has sent Dubai's sovereign credit risk falling the most in nine months and its stock market slumping as investors feared the emirate headed for a default. Tomalin said the bank had been planning the Hong Kong opening for several months and chose the date after the UAE's national day on Wednesday. He did not think it was bad timing. 'There is a time of danger but this is also a time full of opportunities. We are here for the long term and would not be affected by a short-term incident,' he said. He added that the bank had only a US$345 million debt exposure to Dubai World. National Bank of Abu Dhabi is 70.48 per cent owned by the government through the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. Founded in 1968 and listed on the Abu Dhabi bourse, it has 95 branches at home and 45 in 11 countries including Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Britain, France, Switzerland and the United States. 'We chose to open our first Asian branch in Hong Kong as it is close to China and other parts of Asia, including Singapore and Malaysia. We found a lot of Middle East clients who are interested in doing business in Asia and we have also seen that many Asia investors like to do business in the Middle East,' Tomalin said. Bank senior general manager Qamber Ali al-Mulla said the bank was looking to expand to other parts of Asia.