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Reform helps agricultural bank bolster deposits
By Zhang Dingmin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-24 15:19

The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), one of China's four State-owned commercial banks, said on February 23 that reform efforts had helped push its total deposits to a historic new level.

The record number of deposits is largely a result of the growing wealth of Chinese depositors as well as measures to broaden the business scope of the bank, which previously focused on rural areas, it said.

The bank's outstanding deposits capped 3 trillion yuan (US$360 billion) at the end of January, which accounted for 14.35 per cent of the nation's total bank deposits.

China's bank deposits have continued to grow rapidly in recent years on the back of its robust economic growth, hitting 11 trillion yuan (US$1.3 trillion) late last year.

An ABC spokesperson said the bank, in recent years, has enhanced lending to infrastructure projects such as power generation, transportation and telecommunications.

It has also tried to strengthen partnerships with big corporate clients to broaden its business scope.

The ABC was originally created to provide policy-based financing to the nation's agricultural and rural development. Most of its operations were based in China's countryside, before a reform in the 1990s granted it the status of a regular commercial bank.

Also yesterday, the bank signed an agreement with the government of East China's Zhejiang Province, agreeing to lend 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion) in three years to alleviate a funding shortage hindering the region's fast-growing economy.

According to ABC President Yang Mingsheng, the loans will mainly go to power generation, transportation, and urban construction as well as the private sector.

Chinese banks have been eager to lend their growing deposits to profitable borrowers and projects. Excessive bank lending fuelled expansive investments in such fast-growing industries like cement and steel, and prompted worries about overheating the economy.

To ensure its commitment to the agreement, the bank pledged to give its Zhejiang branch greater freedom in granting loans to power, water and waste water processing projects that have been approved by relevant authorities.

The bank will also pilot a reform at the Zhejiang branch to implement a new lending system that allows for product innovation, senior bank officials said.

The ABC signed a similar lending agreement worth 100 billion yuan with the Zhejiang provincial government to support its small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) over a five-year period of time. The agreement proceeded smoothly, and "all the loans have produced good effects, making the agreement a win-win deal," a spokesperson said.

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