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Bank Reform Needs One Year
China's banking giant, the China Construction Bank (CCB), said Thursday it needs another year for the completion of its internal restructuring, which will pave the way for a final public flotation, said Wang Xuebing, president of the bank.

"We are now spreading out the restructuring work to the provincial branches nationwide as the key task in the second stage of our reform after we finished the business reshuffle at the headquarters level this February," said Wang, adding that the internal restructuring would require another 12 months of work.

The banking giant mapped out its reform plan earlier last year as a move to fuel its competitiveness by improving its operating efficiency and reducing costs so as to compete amid the expected fierce competition after China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is to result in a rapid influx of foreign conglomerate rivals.

The reform strategy, according to Wang, will involve upgrading and improving the bank's organization framework, planning management, credit policy, its information and technology systems, internal controls, and payment systems.

Wang also vowed to upgrade the bank's risk control system, personnel acquisition system, accounting system and the inner control and auditing system.

But he did not give a detailed forecast when the bank would be ready to go public.

"Currently, the time is not yet right for the big four State-owned banks, including us, to adopt a share-holding system," he said. "And it is unlikely we will be listed on the stock market in the near future."

A public flotation in the stock market is not our ultimate purpose, but a way of improving our performance and working transparency, said Wang.

Unlike other members of the Big Fours, such as the Bank of China, which are heading for an overseas expansion, the banker said the bank will be concentrating more on the growth of the domestic market and business innovations.

"China is such a huge market that we have tremendous opportunities, as our major customer bases and banking resources are all located here," said Wang.

And he admitted the bank currently does not have the power and ability to tap the international market, although the bank is widely seen as one of the largest commercial banks in China.

"The domestic market will be our base, and we will follow the rule of steady business growth catering to the demands of our customers. At the moment, the bank has 25,000 branches and outlets in the domestic market, and most of its 2.6 trillion yuan (US$313 billion) in deposits is also domestic savings.

"We will not blindly come out of domestic market, because the nagative experience of Japanese banks has already taught us a good lesson," said Wang, referring to the fact that a host of Japanese banks stepped out of their domestic market in late 1970s and 1980s but ran into trouble in the 1990s.

Wang said China's enterprises should not rely blindly on the expertise of foreign rivals, but the successful understanding of domestic markets.

(China Daily 04/06/2001)

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