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City Commercial Banks Set to Go Public
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Bank of Nanjing and Bank of Ningbo are expected to become China's first two city-level commercial banks to raise funds by going public in order to compete with larger domestic and overseas rivals, Tuesday's Shanghai Securities News reports.


Both banks will issue yuan-denominated A-shares to be listed on the domestic stock exchanges. Their initial public offering (IPO) applications will be reviewed by the China Securities Regulatory Commission on Friday.


Bank of Nanjing, partly-owned by BNP Paribas, is expected to sell up to 700 million shares and Bank of Ningbo, which has the Taiwan-based Bank of Overseas Chinese as one of its shareholders, will sell as many as 450 million shares. The issued shares will account for 37 percent and 18 percent respectively of the banks' total shares.


It is not yet known when the banks plan to issue the shares.


Bank of Nanjing, with 58 branches in Jiangsu Province in east China, reported gross assets worth of 57.9 billion yuan and net profits of 595 million yuan in 2006. Its non-performing loan (NPL) rate was 2.47 percent.


With 68 branches in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, Bank of Ningbo had 56.6 billion yuan in total assets, with a NPL rate of 0.33 percent, as in 2006.


Apart from the two banks, Bank of Beijing has also completed its application for IPO and city commercial banks in Hangzhou, Chongqing and Shanghai are also following suit.


"China's leading city commercial banks, such as Bank of Beijing, Bank of Shanghai and Bank of Nanjing, are comparable to listed banks in terms of asset scale and capital quality," said Zhu Yaoming, director of the research center for small and medium-sized banks with the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology.


The average NPL rate of city commercial banks stood at 4.8 percent at the end of 2006, compared to an average of 7.51 percent for big state banks.


"In the long run, city commercial banks will continue to be faced with geographical limits on operations," said Zeng Gang, researcher with the Financial Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


By the end of 2006, total assets of China's 114 city commercial banks had reached 2.6 trillion yuan, accounting for only six percent of the country's total banking assets of 44 trillion yuan.


Overseas lenders, such as Citibank and HSBC, began Renminbi retail business in April.


(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2007)



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