SHANGHAI: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s biggest lender by market value said on Monday it was seeking acquisition opportunities to expand business in the Middle East and North Africa, hoping to benefit from booming trade between China and the Gulf region.
ICBC, which currently has branches in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, is studying the feasibility of setting up operations in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and will consider buying assets in other countries in the Middle East and the North Africa region, said Tian Zhiping, head of ICBC’s Middle-East operations.
"A deeper understanding of the region makes us feel that our existing business layout is inadequate for us to grasp business opportunities," Tian told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Shanghai.
"We’re expanding on the back of China’s huge economy. Middle Eastern countries not only want more capital from China, they want more cooperation from Chinese companies as well."
ICBC and other Chinese lenders such as Bank of China and China Merchants Bank have been accelerating overseas expansion in recent years, at a time when some western rivals are cutting back growth due to the global financial crisis.
Tian said that ICBC, with its vast customer base in China, is in a better position than banks such as Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC Holdings Plc in bringing Chinese companies to the Middle East.
In Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, there are about 200,000 Chinese business people, many of whom have deposits worth at least 100 million yuan ($14.64 million), Tian said.
That could translate into huge business opportunities when ICBC gets a consumer banking licence soon from the local authorities. The Chinese bank currently provides only corporate banking services in the city.
–Additional reporting by Qu Weizhi