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ICBC Eyes Expansion in Middle East, Russia

Reuters
Wednesday, 17 Oct 2007 | 3:44 AM ET

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country's largest bank, plans to open branches in Doha, Dubai, Moscow and Sydney, Chairman Jiang Jianqing said on Wednesday.

"As the whole world knows, the Middle East is a fast-growing region with lots of capital. Just as in China, there are many opportunities for banks," Jiang told reporters during the Communist Party Congress.

ICBC, in which Goldman Sachs , Allianz Group and American Express hold stakes, is flush with cash and eyeing expansion opportunities after raising $21.9 billion last year in the world's biggest IPO.

Jiang said he wanted overseas business to account for 10% of ICBC's total revenues, up from 3-4% now.

He gave no timeframe but said the bank, which overtook Citigroup in July as the world's biggest bank by market value, would prefer to expand in emerging markets.

ICBC bought a 90% stake last December in Bank Halim Indonesia and agreed in August to pay $583 million for 80% of Macau's Seng Heng Bank.

On the Middle East, Jiang said the region was currently served only by a Bank of China branch in Bahrain.

Trade and investment between China and the Middle East were expanding rapidly, and many Chinese construction companies were active in the region, Jiang said.

Chinese regulators have agreed to the Middle East expansion plan and were now awaiting approval from their counterparts in the region, which could happen in the coming months, he added.

ICBC's non-performing loan ratio would end the year around 3%, down from 3.79% at the end of 2006, Jiang said.

ICBC's loans would grow about 10% this year. He said the central bank's lending curbs would not prevent ICBC from extending credit as normal to its corporate customers.

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