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Beijing bank seeks investors
(Shenzhen Daily/Agencies)
Updated: 2005-01-11 14:49

Beijing City Commercial Bank, the 16th biggest of China's 112 city banks, said it expected to attract strategic investors this year as it prepared to expand operations to other cities on the Chinese mainland.

The Beijing-based bank, which changed its name to Bank of Beijing on Sunday, said it would focus on possible tie-ups with overseas banks, without identifying potential partners.

China's banking regulator last year allowed the nation's city commercial banks to expand outside their home bases for the first time, making them more attractive to overseas banks. Household savings at Chinese banks reached a record US$1.5 trillion at the end of November.

"City commercial banks, especially those in big cities, are attractive to foreign investors because they are smaller and cost less to invest in," said Wu Yonggang, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co in Shanghai.

The regulator also encouraged the city banks to find strategic investors to help them gain technical expertise and cooperate or merge with other city lenders.

Bank of Beijing said in a statement that it boosted total assets to 209 billion yuan (US$25.2 billion) at the end of last year. Outstanding loans totaled 109.6 billion yuan and deposits were 189 billion yuan.

Foreign banks are seeking partners in China as the nation opens up its financial services sector under provisions of its entry in the World Trade Organization in December 2001.

US equity fund Newbridge Capital last year paid US$145 million in a deal to buy 17.89 percent of China's Shenzhen Development Bank.

HSBC Holdings, Europe's biggest bank by market value, agreed last August to acquire 19.9 percent of Shanghai's Bank of Communications, the country's fifth-biggest lender.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation's second-biggest lender, agreed to buy 11 percent of China's eighth-biggest city commercial bank in September, and then entered talks to buy a stake in a second Chinese city lender in November.

Commonwealth Bank last year won regulatory approval for its purchase of a stake in Jinan City Commercial Bank and has an option to buy a total of a fifth of that lender. Hangzhou Bank in the eastern province of Zhejiang said Commonwealth was also negotiating to buy a stake in it.

Bank of Nova Scotia won approval last September from Chinese regulators to raise its stake in Xi'an City Commercial Bank to as much as 12.5 percent.

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