Bank of China opening Brussels branch

08:40, December 01, 2010      

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Bank of China, the largest foreign currency business bank in China, will officially open a new branch next week in Brussels to meet the momentum of brisk Sino-European economic and trade cooperation.

Amid the unfolding European debt crisis, the branch located in the heart of the Belgian capital has already been in operation after a year of preparation.

She Bing, general manager of the branch, said the bank will mainly offer financial services for enterprises dealing with bilateral trade and investment, representative offices of Chinese organizations, and Chinese citizens abroad.

"I am confident in our expansion in Europe, and we expect to turn a profit this year," She Bing told China Daily in an exclusive interview ahead of the opening ceremony scheduled for Dec 7.

About 50 Chinese and European companies have already shown their intention of becoming clients of the new branch, he said, adding that the branch can offer assistance to companies that echo the government's policies encouraging overseas investment.

The bank provides services for corporate clients that increasingly use renminbi (RMB) settlements.

"Compared with other currencies, such as the dollar and euro, the value of the RMB is stable and there are even possibilities of appreciation in value," he said. "We are experienced in RMB transaction settlements, so I am confident that we will earn a big margin here beginning next year."

The branch is part of Bank of China (Luxembourg) SA, the bank's first overseas operation, which has about 50 staff members.

"Judging from our long experience in Europe, we will sustain our profit-making ability here," he said.

In 2009, the Luxembourg branch turned a 26 million euro ($34 million) profit, and this year's profit is expected to be even higher.

The Brussels branch currently has seven employees, of which only two are Chinese. "Our confidence comes in part from our localization strategy," She said.

Nathalie de Cock, a Belgian who speaks fluent Chinese, English and French, was chosen from more than 100 job seekers and started working in the branch in September.

Bernard Dewit, chairman of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC), said that the opening of this Bank of China office illustrates the trend of more Chinese companies coming to invest in Europe, particularly Belgium.

"This shows that important Chinese banks want to play a part in this new challenge by following their Chinese clients to Europe," said Dewit.

He said the opening of the Brussels branch office will not only provide an extra on-site source of advice and guidance to Chinese companies in Belgium but will also encourage other prospective Chinese investors and lower the investment barriers in Belgium.

In addition, he said, about 500 Belgian member companies within the BCECC will benefit from the presence of these Chinese financial institutions to find more support, in cooperation with Belgian banks, for major projects in China.

Yao Yun, a finance researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the financial crisis has been reshaping the global financial structure, with leading banks in the United States and Europe withdrawing from financial sectors.

"They have left more market space for Chinese banks, such as the Bank of China, to expand overseas," Yao said. He suggested that China's financial institutions should aim higher and go beyond traditional banking.

"As the financial giants of China, they should also invest in Western financial, banking and insurance sectors," Yao said.

Source:China Daily


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