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ICBC approved to set up subsidiary in Doha
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The Qatar Financial Center has approved the application of China's largest lender, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), to set up a branch in Doha, Xinhua learned on Friday.

It was the first time that a Chinese bank had been allowed to establish a business outlet in the Persian Gulf region, according to ICBC.

Officials of the Chinese bank said that bilateral financial collaboration had become more important because of closer economic and trade ties.

The Doha branch will focus on wholesale commercial banking as well as investment banking activities such as asset management, investment consulting and trust services.

ICBC's relationship with Qatar began in 2006 when the Qatar Investment Authority bought 206 million U.S. dollars worth of shares in ICBC in the bank's initial public offering (IPO). The IPO was at the time the world's largest.

China's improved banking supervision and ICBC's rising competitiveness won recognition from Qatar and helped facilitate this latest deal.

As the biggest lender in China, ICBC has been actively expanding in the global financial market. Last year, ICBC bought a 20-percent equity stake in South African Standard Bank Group for 5.46 billion U.S. dollars and a 79.93 percent stake in Seng Heng Bank (SHB) in Macao.

ICBC also established subsidiaries in Moscow, Jakarta and Indonesia.

ICBC Chairman Jiang Jianqing said on Friday that the bank would continue to rein in loans and limit annual growth to about 10 percent.

Analysts said that ICBC was accelerating efforts to shift from traditional practice of reliance on deposit and loan rate margins while building a sustainable profit model.

The bank sold 154.4 billion yuan (22.47 billion U.S. dollars) worth of personal finance products in 2007, up 126.49 percent year-on-year. Net profit rose 60 percent to more than 80 billion yuan, Jiang said.

Last year, the bank had 127 percent growth in e-banking, which could account for 42 percent of total business this year, five percentage points higher than last year.

(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)

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