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Further opening in banking sector pledged
By Ding Min & Zhang Jin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-09 00:46

A top Chinese banking regulator said Wednesday foreign banks have become an important part of the nation's banking industry, pledging to further open up the local market to facilitate their growth.

"The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) is fully aware of the importance of introducing foreign invested financial institutions," CBRC Chairman Liu Mingkang told the International Ivestment Forum Wednesday in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province.

"We hold that introducing foreign banks will help improve the service quality and efficiency of the banking sector, help importing advanced managerial technology and experience, enhance the management of Chinese funded banking institutions and sharpen the competitiveness of our banking sector," he added.

By the end of last month, foreign banks had set up 200 operational entities in China, and had launched more than 100 banking products. Thirteen foreign banks have won regulatory approval to provide online banking services.

"In fact, foreign financial institutions have already brought in new technology and experience over recent years and generated positive changes for the development of China's banking sector," Liu said. "By the same token, the introduction of foreign financial institutions into the Chinese market is conducive to the reform and reorganization of the banking sector."

The official added: "Foreign financial institutions, especially foreign-funded banks, have become an important component of China's banking system."

Foreign-invested banks have witnessed rapid growth in the Chinese market, with their assets in China totalling US$64.3 billion at the end of July this year, or a market share of 1.82 per cent. They have secured a 17.8 per cent share of the local foreign currency lending market.

"It is worth noting that the asset quality of these foreign-invested banks has been good. Their non-performing asset ratio is only 1.5 per cent, and their non-performing loan ratio is a mere 1.59 per cent, and the numbers are falling," Liu said.

The official said China will continue with the drive of opening up the banking sector to create a level playing field for domestic and foreign-funded financial institutions.

In accordance with China's World Trade Organization commitments, the nation will open Beijing, Kunming and Xiamen in December this year to foreign-funded banks for renminbi business, bringing the total to 16 cities. Four more cities will be opened at the end of next year, before all banking restrictions are lifted at the end of 2006.

Foreign-funded banks's renminbi denominated assets totalled 85.7 billion yuan (US$10.3 billion) at the end of July, up 48 per cent on a year-on-year basis. Their combined profits came in at 300 million yuan (US$36 million) in the first seven months of this year.

Liu reiterated the commission's support for foreign financial institutions buying into Chinese banks, saying such co-operation will benefit both sides.

"On the one hand, foreign investment will help consolidate the capital basis and diversify the shareholding structure of Chinese banks, thus improving the corporate governance and overall administration of the entire banking sector," he said.

"On the other hand, this strengthened linkage with Chinese-invested banks will help foreign banks increase their market share and client pool," he said.

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