SBP to grant li­cence ICBC to open branch in Pak­istan

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

KARACHI: Pak­istan is poised to ap­prove an ap­pli­ca­tion by In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial Bank of China to start op­er­at­ing in the coun­try, a move that Is­lam­abad hopes will her­ald closer com­mer­cial ties with Bei­jing.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials see a visit by Wen Ji­abao, the Chi­nese premier, this month as a chance to strengthen a long­stand­ing al­liance at a time when Is­lam­abad's re­la­tions with the US are un­der strain.

Shahid Kar­dar, Pak­istan's cen­tral bank gover­nor, said he would grant ICBC, China's biggest bank, a li­cence to open a branch in Pak­istan ahead of Mr Wen's ar­rival on De­cem­ber 17.

"I would see a greater in­crease in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in terms of China and Pak­istan," he told the Fi­nan­cial Times in Karachi, Pak­istan's com­mer­cial cap­i­tal. "The sig­nal that goes out is that Pak­istan is open for busi­ness."

Mr Kar­dar said ICBC ap­plied for the li­cence sev­eral months ago to ex­ploit op­por­tu­ni­ties in trade and project fi­nance gen­er­ated by a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese com­pa­nies work­ing in Pak­istan. ICBC, which has a mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of $300bn, is pur­su­ing an am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion drive in the Mid­dle East and in big cities across Europe. The bank de­clined to com­ment on Mr Kar­dar's re­marks. Se­cu­rity con­cerns may weigh on the com­pany's think­ing over how much ex­po­sure it seeks in Pak­istan. Karachi, home of the coun­try's bank­ing sec­tor, has wit­nessed an in­crease in po­lit­i­cally-mo­ti­vated mur­ders and sui­cide bomb­ings this year, in­clud­ing an at­tack on a po­lice com­pound by Tal­iban in­sur­gents last month that killed at least 15 peo­ple. China's ac­tiv­i­ties in Pak­istan, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing mil­i­tary sales and civil­ian nu­clear co-op­er­a­tion, are be­ing watched war­ily by In­dia, which views both coun­tries with sus­pi­cion. Mr Kar­dar be­lieves ICBC will act as a cat­a­lyst for greater ac­tiv­ity by Chi­nese com­pa­nies who are al­ready in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture, en­ergy, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and min­ing. Bi­lat­eral trade is worth some $6.2bn a year, dom­i­nated by $5bn of Chi­nese ex­ports, Pak­istani of­fi­cials say. - PB News

ANKARA: Prime Min­is­ter Syed Yousaf Raza Gi­lani in a meet­ing with Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Ab­dul­lah Gul in Ankara. -On­line

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