Foreign banks seek to add value to China's Belt and Road Initiative

Bill Winters, group chief executive of Standard Chartered PLC, spent ten days traveling five Chinese cities last month. He said the key word of his trip was "Belt and Road."

Winters said the company is seeking to add value to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday that Chinese companies had increased investment in 55 countries along the Belt and Road route in the first half year, with a total of 7.4 billion U.S. dollars, up 12 percent year on year. The contract value of newly-signed contracted engineering projects in countries along the route was 47.79 billion U.S. dollars.

Standard Chartered was involved in over 50 projects related to the BRI in 2017. The bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China Development Bank in January, aiming to facilitate trade and investment relating to China's BRI by financing at least 20 billion U.S. dollars before 2020.

"We have clients in China and in 45 B&R countries where we operate. The combination gives us a unique position to add value in a broad number of transactions," said Winters.

He engaged with Chinese clients who are interested in investing in overseas projects during his trip to visit Beijing, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

Several foreign banks have made moves to seize opportunities brought by China's call for cross-border economic cooperation under the initiative. Citibank signed an MOU with Bank of China, China's largest foreign exchange bank, and China Merchants Bank, in April to jointly assist Chinese firms exploring markets aboard.

OCBC Bank, Singapore's longest established local bank, has also inked a deal with the Bank of Shanghai to share their resources in financing Belt and Road projects.

Huang Ruizhong, general secretary of the China Banking Association, suggested foreign banks focus on projects that have industrial innovation and service, Sino-foreign cooperation, finance and payment settlement and big data sectors when financing Belt and Road projects.

Winters said foreign banks can provide expertise in project and export finance, merger & acquisition and leverage finance, syndication, debt capital market, trade finance and cash management in cross-border trade and investment.

"We will advance our capacity in building a network with Mandarin speakers across Belt and Road countries because we often find that Chinese firms investing overseas send a number of Chinese staff to these projects. Having somebody speaking the language is helpful," he said.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Commerce, in H1, Chinese domestic investors conducted non-financial direct investment in 3,600 overseas enterprises in 151 countries and regions, with an accumulated investment of 57.2 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 18.7 percent year on year.

Editor: 曹家宁
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