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Citi sees ample room for growth in nation

By Jiang Xueqing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-13 09:10
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Christine Lam, chief executive officer of Citi China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Further opening-up of the financial market in China will create opportunities for US-based Citigroup Inc or Citi to garner new business and profits in the country, according to Christine Lam, chief executive officer of Citi China.

"We are definitely looking forward to obtaining new business licenses," said Lam during an interview in Beijing on Wednesday.

The bank is interested in many areas including custody and futures businesses, she said.

Citigroup Inc has agreed to sell its 33.33 percent stake in Citi Orient Securities Co Ltd to Orient Securities Co Ltd for 476 million yuan ($68 million). The securities joint venture will be wholly owned by Orient Securities after the transaction is completed.

"It was one of the most successful JVs. The two parties agreed amicably for Orient Securities to take the full ownership. We are actively evaluating how we could best take advantage of the new rules which allow majority or even 100 percent foreign ownership of a securities entity," Lam said.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission issued 19 measures this year to further open up China's banking and insurance industries, following announcements of 15 measures in 2018. The policies created sound institutions and a market foundation for the financial sector to improve international competitiveness and its capacity to serve the real economy, the regulator said in a post on its website on Monday.

These efforts are bringing both direct and indirect benefits to foreign banks, Lam said.

"The opening-up of China's capital market is attractive to foreign institutional investors. As the custodian bank and cash management bank for these clients, we have seen increasing flows of capital into China's interbank bond market, and this trend is obvious," she said.

Citi China received the Type-A license to act as a bond settlement agent in China's interbank bond market in 2017. The industry-wide ranking of its business in this segment improved from 17th back then to seventh this year, showing significant progress.

On July 20, the Office of the Financial Stability and Development Committee under the State Council issued a set of measures to further open up the financial industry, including a measure to lift the foreign ownership limits on securities, fund management and futures companies by 2020, a year ahead of schedule.

"With the announcement of these measures, many international companies accelerated their steps to participate in the China market and enlarged the size of their business in the country, which in turn increased the volume of our business with them as a global bank," Lam said.

"The external environment in China has been more challenging this year. The transformation of the Chinese economy and China-US trade friction did impact business sentiment to a certain extent. But we are prepared for these challenges and have adjusted accordingly to actively managing risks and assisting our clients to navigate through the environment."

Over the last three years, Citi China achieved double-digit growth in its new economy and private companies related business. The bank has set up a team dedicated to the new economy segment and targeted niche clients including online travel agencies, and e-commerce, new energy and healthcare companies.

It has also made full use of its global network to offer banking services to new economy companies that are interested in doing business overseas. Citi provides financial services in more than 160 markets, holding a local banking license in 98 of them.

With a network covering over 90 percent of the markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative, the relevant business of Citi grew by more than 20 percent this year, Lam said.

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