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Citibank expects SME business to double
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Citibank said yesterday that it expects its small and medium-sized enterprise business to double this year as the bank sees ''significant growth'' for the segment.

The bank's financial services unit for SMEs is planning to team up with firms like guarantee companies or insurance companies to offer more innovative products to SMEs, said Henry Zhang, managing director and executive vice president of Citibank (China) Co Ltd, yesterday in Shanghai.

The United States-based bank, which set up its commercial banking in China's mainland in July 2004, has seen a "significant growth trend" for the SME business in China despite market turmoil that has hit some SMEs which have been crimped by the government's tight monetary policy and weaker external demand.

But "we are bullish on the segment," Zhang said.

Citi, which has about 100 client relationship managers to deal with SMEs, has also discussed with Alibaba.com over possible cooperation in financing support to these firms.

Boosting lending to SMEs is one of the priorities for the domestic regulators, with the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) and the People's Bank of China both reiterating credit support to the smaller enterprises.

The central bank and the CBRC in May also issued joint rules regarding a trial program for enterprises offering small loans to bolster lending to small business firms.

Citibank is one of the major overseas banks on the Chinese mainland, competing with HSBC and Standard Chartered.

(Shanghai Daily September 10, 2008)

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