China Construction Bank, one of the nation's "big four" state-owned commercial banks, said Friday it earned 6.6 billion yuan (US$795 million) in profits in January, before setting aside provisions for bad loans.
Last year, the bank earned 51.2 billion yuan (US$6.2 billion) in profits before setting aside provisions for bad loans.
January's profits was another piece of positive news from the bank, which plans to go public before the year's end.
The bank also obtained US$22.5 billion of State funds to increase its capital base.
The bank's non-performing loans (NPLs) stood at 9.25 percent by the end of last year, according to the international standard of five category classification.
Bank President Zhang Enzhao said the bank would become increasingly competitive on the international market, with a combination of higher profits and an improved asset quality.
The bank has already set a profit growth target of 18 percent for this year before setting aside bad loan provisions.
Zhang said improved corporate governance and internal structural reforms will be the two ways the bank hopes to achieve its profit growth goal.
The bank's risk management capability will also be enhanced to further improve its asset quality, he said.
This year, the bank will give key loan support to energy, communication and raw material projects, which are encouraged by government policies.
Increasing levels of consumer demand will also be offered great attention, Zhang said.
The bank will give greater emphasis to the development of its overseas business.
"China Construction Bank has to increase its international presence to ensure the coordinated development of both its domestic and overseas businesses," he said.
The latest indication of the bank's overseas expansion was Wednesday's opening of a branch in Seoul, South Korea.
"China Construction Bank plans to establish more overseas operations in the years to come," he said.
The bank has already established branches in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Frankfurt and Johannesburg and has representative offices in London and New York, Zhang said.
The bank also holds a 5.17 percent stake in CITIC Financial Holdings.
China Construction Bank plans to restructure its resources to secure a 100 percent control over the Jianxin Bank in Hong Kong.
Total assets in the bank's overseas branches reached US$7.2 billion by the end of last year. Pre-tax profits after setting aside provisions for bad assets by these branches stood at US$27.8 million.
The bank has opened 869 agent banks in 100 countries and regions, ensuring a good business coverage to all the country's leading trade partners, Zhang said.
The bank reshuffled its international business department last year in order to further support the expansion of its overseas business.
"We aim to increase the market share of the foreign exchange deposits business by more than 0.3 percentage points this year and next," he said.
"We also plan to increase the international settlement business by 30 percent annually before the end of next year."
(China Daily February 27, 2004)