World / Europe

ICBC opens branch in London

By Zhang Chunyan in London ( Updated: 2014-12-02 09:21

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) announced the launch of its United Kingdom operation by opening a branch in London on Monday.

ICBC got the branch license approved by the British regulatory authorities in September, becoming the first Chinese mainland bank to set up a branch in the UK since 1949.

"ICBC highly values the British market and regards London as one of its core strategic markets for overseas development," ICBC Chairman Jiang Jianqing said at the opening ceremony in City of London.

According to Jiang, ICBC London branch and ICBC (London) plc, the existing local subsidiary of the Bank, will be primarily engaged in traditional commercial banking, with the former focusing on the development of large wholesale business and the latter on retail and SME business respectively.

"ICBC is currently in the process of gaining control over Standard Bank Plc, and will turn it into its overseas flagship in the spheres of commodities, currencies and capital markets to serve clients in global financial markets," Jiang said.

Looking to the future, Jiang said the new branch will enhance its comprehensive financial service capacities, and play an even larger role in promoting bilateral trade and economic ties and serving enterprises from the two countries.

Until now, ICBC was operating in the UK as a subsidiary, and had stricter capital requirements than those for a branch. Hence, in most cases, the lending and financing capacity is proportional to the balance sheet of the subsidiary itself.

Industry insiders said that with the new branch, ICBC will now enjoy greater lending and financing capacity in the UK.

After obtaining the regulatory approval, the ICBC branch has gained a good start and laid a solid foundation for business development.

In October, ICBC London branch, together with other major international banks, successfully provided a £2,150 million syndicated revolving credit facility for Heathrow Airport, as a Mandated Lead Arranger.

It also provided a £80 million credit support in favor of Lloyds of London, the first by a Chinese bank, on behalf of China Reinsurance.

Since these inaugural commitments, it has entered into several other credit facilities for highly-regarded clients, including Airbus Group, InterContinental Hotels Group and Jaguar Land Rover, strengthening its market profile in London.

Moreover, it has also arranged a 2 billion cross-border yuan financing deal by cooperating with the bank's domestic branches, setting the stage for ICBC to further develop cross-border RMB business in London. The majority of these transactions would not have been possible without the branch license.

The UK is China's third-biggest trade partner in the EU, second-biggest source of actual foreign investment as well as a major destination for overseas investment of China.

In 2013, bilateral trade amounted to $70 billion, more than trebling the level a decade ago. Chinese investments in the UK reached $13 billion in the last two years, more than the total of the past three decades.

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