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New Head of ABC to Be Appointed
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A vice-governor of China's central bank, Xiang Junbo, is expected to take the helm at the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) to steer it through its shareholding reform in order to secure a market listing.

It is not clear what post the People's Bank of China's Xiang will take but Caijing magazine, a leading financial publication, reported that the 50-year-old would be appointed as the governor and the chairman of the board upon the accomplishment of the shareholding reform.

Analysts say the new appointment will not lead to immediate moves such as inviting in strategic investors or financial restructuring as the bank is widely known to be the worst hit by massive lending to the rural sector, with a non-performing loan rate of 23.43 percent at the end of 2006, far higher than those of the other three state commercial banks, which have all been listed in Hong Kong and domestic A share markets.

Before being promoted to the post of vice-governor of the People's Bank of China in July 2004, Xiang spent eight years with the National Audit Office. His background will be constructive to strengthening the risk control of the ABC, analysts say.

China initiated the reform of the "big four" banks after the first national financial work conference in 1997. The China Construction Bank took the lead in market listing in October 2005, followed by the Bank of China last year.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country's biggest lender, staged a dual debut in both Hong Kong and Shanghai bourses on Oct. 27.

All three have followed the steps of government capital injections, dealing with non-performing loans, establishing shareholding companies, introducing strategic investors and seeking opportunities for listing.

Up to US$70 billion would be needed to clear the bank's non-performing loans before it could meet overseas listing standards, analysts have said.

Su Ning, vice governor of the People's Bank of China, replaced Xiang as the chief of the Shanghai Head Office of the PBOC, a central bank statement said on Monday.

(Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2007)

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