BIDDING for Bank Bumiputra Malaysia (BBMB), one of the largest prizes in Malaysia's privatisation programme, is likely to heat up following yesterday's announcement of outstanding results for the year to March. Pre-tax profits at the country's second largest banking group climbed 458 per cent to M$450.1 million (about HK$1.36 billion), while assets grew 32.3 per cent to $29.7 billion on March 31, according to chairman Khalid Sahan. Pre-tax profits from the bank grew 528 per cent to $318.2 million. The bank, set up in 1965 largely to provide aid to indigenous Malays called bumiputras, was rocked by a scandal in 1984 involving huge loans granted by its Hong Kong subsidiary, Bumiputra Malaysia Finance, to the collapsed Carrian Property Group. The government, which has twice bailed BBMB out since the scandal, has invested $1.15 billion in the bank, now controlled by the Minister of Finance Inc, the government's investment arm. The performance of Bank Bumiputra, although not a listed concern, was closely monitored as it played a vital role in Malaysia's economic progress and industrialisation process, analysts said. The bank's strong earnings performance put it back on par with MayBank, the country's largest bank with assets of $73.488 billion on June 30, they said. BBMB's ratio of pre-tax profits to assets of 1.51 per cent compared favourably with MayBank. However, 50 per cent of profits was derived from fee-based income and foreign exchange trading. Another 35 per cent of net income was derived from the recovery of bad loans, a figure which analysts attributed to the country's buoyant economy. Even so, bank officials said that BBMB's bad loan ratio remained above the industry average. Many analysts credit BBMB's new management for the turnaround in the bank's fortunes. The team, led by chief executive officer Abdul Aziz Othman, joined the bank in early 1993. The government is now faced with the choice of listing the bank or selling it. Management is likely to participate in the event of either option, according to brokers. Two politically well-connected companies, Landmarks and Malaysian Resources Corp, have bid for the bank which is 100 per cent owned by the Ministry of Finance. ''The market will be more appreciative of a company that is cleaner. The bank should either make a separate listing or become the only major asset to a holding company,'' said one analyst. With banks trading at more than 20 times this year's earnings, most analysts say BBMB would perform well if listed.