Category Archives: Banking

China’s ICBC Opens Account in India

World’s largest lender in terms of market cap is the first Chinese bank to open a branch in India

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, or ICBC — the world’s biggest lender by market value, has set up business in India, which could potentially open up the market for firms from Beijing, boost investment in infrastructure sectors and foster the growth of a rupee-yuan market. 

The bank will be the first of four Chinese lenders to start operations in India. India and China had signed a memorandum of understanding, or MoU, during Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s visit, which will facilitate Chinese banks to open branches in India. “We have received a commercial banking licence. In the first stage, we would like to focus on wholesale banking services and products to Chinese enterprises and related parties,” said Sun Xiang, chief executive officer of ICBC, Mumbai branch. The bank, which is now expanding in Europe and other countries, will gradually offer personal banking to local customers and private banking services.

Four Indian banks — SBI, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India and Canara Bank — have a branch each in China. Chinese banks had sought regulatory approval to start commercial operations on grounds of reciprocity.

“ICBC would facilitate the investment of Chinese companies in India’s power, telecom and infrastructure sectors. We would also help companies raise yuan-denominated bonds if there is a demand,” said Yang Kaisheng, president of ICBC. “Corporates can get 3-5 funds by issuing dim sum bonds at an interest cost in the range of 1-3%. A similar issue in India could cost firms an interest rate of 9-10%,” said a treasury head with a private sector bank.

In 2010, China emerged as India’s biggest trade partner with a trade volume of $61.7 billion, which is nearly 20 times of what it was almost 10 years ago, while India is also China’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. ICBC has accelerated its overseas expansion plans. At the end of June 2011, the bank’s overseas assets stood at $140 billion, which account for 4% of its total assets.

“We are still a new comer in the international market when compared to other global players. In future we would like to see the share of international assets go up to 10%,” said Kaisheng. “This would be difficult as our domestic assets are growing faster,” he said.

On potential investments in India, Kaisheng said it would hinge on two factors — the bank’s capital adequacy and the proportion of funds allocated by the head office. “It is true that we operate as a branch instead of a subsidiary. However, as and when regulations demand, we would be open to converting into a wholly-owned subsidiary,” he added.