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HK Lender Receives Branch Licence Under CEPA

Wing Lung Bank Ltd announced over the weekend that it has become the first Hong Kong lender to receive a branch license from the Chinese banking regulator to enter the mainland after the signing of a free-trade pact.

The Hong Kong lender said in a statement on Saturday that the China Banking Regulatory Commission earlier this month approved its application to set up a branch in Shenzhen, which is just across the border from the special administrative region.

"Preparatory work to launch the branch is going on and it is expected that it can begin operations in the coming spring," said the bank in a statement.

The lender has submitted applications to the CBRC for permission to conduct a wide range of foreign exchange banking services, said the statement.

Wing Lung Bank said it selected Shenzhen for its first mainland branch because most of its clients are small- and medium-sized Hong Kong enterprises that had operations in Shenzhen and Dongguan cities in Guangdong Province.

With the license, Wing Lung Bank is now the first Hong Kong lender to be approved by the CBRC to set up a mainland branch after the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement last year.

The free-trade pact lowers the threshold for Hong Kong lenders to enter the Chinese mainland, cutting the assets requirement to US$6 billion from US$20 billion for a mainland branch.

Wing Lung Bank reported its assets totaled HK$67.1 billion (US$8.64 billion) at the end of June last year.

In addition, two other Hong Kong lenders, Dah Sing Bank and Shanghai Commercial Bank, have also submitted their applications to the banking regulator to open branches in Chinese mainland.

(Shanghai Daily January 19, 2004)

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