Giant China bank seeks NZ licence

Last updated 05:00 09/01/2013

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The biggest bank in the world, China's state-controlled ICBC, is attempting to set up in New Zealand.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is understood to have applied for a banking licence last year, and has reserved the name "ICBC New Zealand Limited" on the Companies Office website.

A spokesman for the Reserve Bank said it could not comment on applications for banking licences until they were approved.

The ICBC's Sydney branch confirmed that preparation work was under way in New Zealand and directed further inquiries to the head office in China.

Beijing-based executive Amanda Lu, who could not be reached for comment, is listed as the deputy head of the New Zealand preparatory team on social network LinkedIn.

According to her profile, Lu has primed the "launch and application work" for the new subsidiary and overseen budgeting and finance.

ICBC is listed on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges with a market capitalisation more than four times the size of the entire New Zealand market.

Massey University banking expert Claire Matthews said a global lender of ICBC's magnitude was unlikely to face much difficulty in getting the green light.

"That doesn't suggest the registration isn't robust. The Reserve Bank has to assess the bank and be convinced that they're going to be a sound player in the market."

ICBC is undertaking an aggressive global push to branch out of the Chinese domestic market.

It set up its Sydney branch in 2008, which was largely focused on facilitating trade and investment between Chinese and Australian companies.

"I think what they're doing in Australia is probably a fairly good guide as to what they're likely to be wanting to do in New Zealand," Matthews said.

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