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China Construction Bank expands in S'pore with eye on infrastructure projects

Singapore

ON THE back of more than US$90 billion in "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure projects being assessed by China Construction Bank (CCB), China's second-largest bank on Tuesday set up a centre in Singapore dedicated to infrastructure financing.

This is on top of the launch of a new CCB banking centre here for private banking, as well as setting up the Singapore subsidiary of CCB International, the Chinese bank's investment services arm.

As it is, investments from Singapore into China make up about 85 per cent of all investments from countries that trace out the trade route linking more than 60 nations across three continents, showed figures cited by Fang Xinwen, charge d'affaires of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, at the launch ceremony. Singapore has been China's largest foreign investor since 2013.

China wants to develop this trade route through what is now commonly known as the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, with Singapore deemed as the gateway into South-east Asia.

The infrastructure service centre is the first of its kind for CCB outside of China. Through this new infrastructure financing centre in Singapore, CCB will offer evaluation and financing services for various infrastructure projects in Asean, including that for railroads, airports, and info-communications, said Wang Zuji, vice chairman of CCB in his speech on Tuesday.

Mr Wang added the latest move by CCB fits with the bank's internationalisation efforts, noting that CCB is the only renminbi (RMB) clearing bank in London, with its cumulative RMB settlement volume exceeding 12 trillion yuan (S$2.44 trillion).

The expansion of CCB with these new outfits in Singapore emerged from the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between CCB and IE Singapore in 2016, said Ng Chee Meng, minister for education (schools), second minister for transport, and co-chairman of the Singapore-Sichuan Trade and Investment Committee, at the ceremony.

"These new offerings bode well for Singapore companies and global enterprises that are based here," noted Mr Ng, adding that businesses can tap on the network and services of CCB in Singapore, to seek out Chinese partners or financing.

The agreements also follow the 13th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting in Beijing in February, co-chaired by Singapore's deputy prime minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli.

Under the MOU signed between CCB and IE Singapore, CCB had committed in 2016 to provide S$30 billion worth of financing services to firms in Singapore and China investing in "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure projects.

The agreement with CCB comes alongside similar agreements that IE Singapore signed with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Bank of China in recent times. IE Singapore in 2016 estimated that the agreement with these three Chinese banks alone could mean more than S$90 billion worth of financing for the envisioned modern-day Silk Road.

CCB also on Tuesday signed three MOUs, including two separate agreements with DBS and MCC Land to partner in the areas of financing, IPOs, and bond issuances. CCB International signed a third agreement with Principal Global Investors to cooperate on product development.

Singapore earlier this month hosted the third Singapore-Shanghai Financial Forum, where several MOUs were signed between financial institutions from both Singapore and Shanghai to enhance capital markets, boost ties between banks and corporates, and raise collaborations with financial technology (fintech) firms. In conjunction with the forum, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank launched its first overseas branch here.