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SG sees strong China growth momentum

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-06-20 07:00

HARBIN - Eyeing strong growth momentum, Societe Generale China is aiming to think long term and build on its expertise to differentiate from competitors, said its chairwoman Anne Marion-Bouchacourt as the bank opened its seventh branch in the country on Wednesday.

China's economic expansion hit a 13-year low in 2012, and economic data over recent months was worse-than-expected. But Marion-Bouchacourt has confidence in China's growth potential and increasing importance over the world.

"Recent production data suggests that the European Union may already be in recession. Economic prospects have improved in the United States and Japan, but these positives will only partly make up for the earlier negatives," she said in a written interview with Xinhua.

"Hence, despite the fact that China's dynamic economy may slow in 2013 and beyond, it remains a powerful growth engine for the world. Over the months, I have also talked to some of our European clients, many telling me they are expecting to generate more than 20 percent of their turnover in China in the next 2 to 3 years," she explained.

The continued opening up of the economy, the transition of the yuan, or Renminbi, toward a fully convertible currency, interest rate liberalization and a deepening debt capital market are drivers for future business growth in China, according to the SG China chief.

She said her optimism also stems from the growing trend for Chinese firms and individuals to venture beyond borders.

"We have global competitive edges in many of our cross-border businesses, including trade finance, project finance, bond issue and mergers and acquisitions, especially in energy and natural resources, as well as risk management in interest rates, foreign exchange and commodities," she said.

Marion-Bouchacourt, also SG group chief country officer for China, acknowledged "the relative small market size of foreign banks" in China, but insisted "we should not be deluded" by that.

"It is the fact that the market has become highly competitive and in some places even tougher than expected, but everybody agrees that foreign banks can play an important role," she said.

Prior to China's opening of its banking sector to the world, many had predicted foreign banks would soon mount serious challenges to domestic banks. But that has not happened as China's state-owned banks continue to dominate the market and foreign-owned banks face increasing funding constraints.

In Marion-Bouchacourt's view, "Many foreign banks are focusing on their niche areas. Although their niche may start out small, opportunities grow with the rapid development of the market. It is especially the case as an increasing number of Chinese corporates and individuals are adopting a global view.

"We must have a clear market positioning strategy. We need to do things and bring things to China that are different from domestic banks."

The newly-unveiled branch in Harbin, capital of northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia, is SG China's first step in the northeast of the country.

"The goal for opening the Harbin branch is to tap into the booming Sino-Russian trade business by leveraging the strong network in Russia," Marion-Bouchacourt said.

SG controls Rosbank, the second-largest privately-owned bank in Russia. It boasts 620 branches in the country and a prominent client base in its far-eastern regions.

"With the traditional and geographical advantages of Heilongjiang province in Sino-Russian trade, the Harbin branch is uniquely positioned to cooperate with Rosbank and jointly serve companies engaging in Sino-Russian trade and to promote the sustainable development of bilateral trade," SG said in a press release.

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