Bank to boost financial services

By Jin Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-23 08:38

SHANGHAI: The Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPDB), a joint-stock commercial bank with its focus on the Yangtze River Delta, intends to increase shares of the First Sino Bank (FSB) and set up a joint venture insurance company as a major step to expand its financial service in China.

The SPDB will increase shares of the FSB from 10 per cent to 30 per cent by investing less than 300 million yuan (US$37.5 million), according to an announcement from the SPDB's board of directors on Friday.

"The share increase will strengthen our understanding and improve our service for Taiwanese investors," said Shen Si, SPDB's board secretary.

The FSB, a Shanghai-based joint venture bank, mainly focus on Taiwanese investors with 85 per cent of the shares held by Hong Kong-registered Lotus Worldwide.

"The share increase will help the FSB to restructure shareholders. But in the short term, the joint venture's low capital-return rate will not benefit the SPDB a lot," said Qian Kun, an analyst for Chang Jiang Securities.

Besides the share increase, the SPDB is planning to set up a joint venture insurance company with BNP Paribas SA, a potential investor from France. SPDB will have a controlling stake in the insurance company, Shen said.

"Our two banks are still in negotiation, and the deal is subject to the approval of the regulatory commission," he said.

In China, bank insurance is still in the development stage with its lower level of professionality and less co-operation than in European countries. A bank is always in an advantageous position when negotiating with an insurance company.

"Banks can provide insurance companies with its customer resources, but in China, banks lack professional insurance salespeople and a full range of services," Qian said.

Currently, the SPDB is applying to establish a joint-venture fund management company with French financial company AXA SA.

(China Daily 12/23/2006 page5)

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