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21st Sep 2019

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Chinese bank to double branches in Europe

China's biggest lender, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC), has indicated that it plans to open five new branches in Europe over the coming fortnight, more than doubling its current presence in the region.

A spokesperson for the bank said the cities of Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Milan and Madrid were all set to receive branches over the two-week period, the Wall Street Journal reports on Monday (17 January).

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  • ICBC and Bank of China towers, Hong Kong (Photo: Toby Oxborrow)

The move is the latest example of post-crisis international expansion by Chinese firms, at a time when Beijing's purchase of eurozone sovereign bonds is also playing an increasingly important role.

ICBC already has branches in London, Moscow, Luxembourg and Frankfurt, with retail and commercial-banking services now set to be offered in the new locations.

Chinese banks have traditionally been slower to move overseas than other types of firm, constrained by a blend of inexperience, a conservative domestic culture and restrictions imposed by overseas regulators.

Concerned by anti-money-laundering standards, US regulators eventually allowed ICBC to open a branch in New York in 2008, but only after pressure was applied by Beijing.

In Europe, EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani recently said the region should establish a new authority with powers to block foreign takeovers of strategic European businesses.

At present, ICBC had almost 200 branches in 28 countries and regions, a figure that pales when compared to large Western banks such as Citigroup which has thousands of bank branches outside of the US.

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