Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Chinese bank sets up shop in NZ

Finance giant likely to compete with local institutions for business to and from China.

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Competition among banks to attract companies trading in the fast-growing market between New Zealand and China is ramping up as Chinese finance industry giants expand here.

China Construction Bank, which has nearly 15,000 branches and close to 300 million customers in its home market, yesterday became the second lender from the Asian superpower to be granted a licence to operate by the Reserve Bank, making it this country's 24th registered bank. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China got the green light last November.

Kiwis are unlikely to begin switching their accounts over to the newly established Chinese lenders en masse, but Massey University's David Tripe said the main competitive threat to local banks would be in trade banking - New Zealand companies doing business in China and Chinese firms coming in the opposite direction.

"It certainly means that they [local banks] can't take the business of large corporations doing business with China, or being Chinese-owned, for granted because there will be Chinese banks potentially competing with them for that business," Tripe said.

ANZ, for example, has put a lot of focus on this area and has established a significant presence in Asia, including China.

China Construction Bank New Zealand's chairwoman, former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, said the bank's initial focus would be on trade business, as well as "supporting high net worth individuals who are either present or wish to come to New Zealand and do business here".

"In due course we will develop the retail banking platform," said Shipley, who was a director of the wider parent company China Construction Bank for six years before retiring in 2013 and being replaced on the board by former ANZ New Zealand boss Murray Horn.

She said the Chinese bank would bring additional competition into the local banking market.

China and New Zealand have set a target of reaching $30 billion in annual bilateral trade by 2020.

Shipley said the Chinese bank viewed that growth in trade as "a very large business opportunity".

The bank's New Zealand arm also counts former PwC chairman John Shewan, now an adjunct professor at Victoria University, as a director.

China Construction Bank said it would focus on wholesale banking services including deposits, syndicated and bilateral loans and trade finance products.

The bank, which is listed on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges, said it would also pursue opportunities to participate in large-scale New Zealand construction projects.

China Construction Bank last year approved a US$50 million capital injection to set up a New Zealand subsidiary. The Beijing-based lender also has operations in Germany, South Africa, Vietnam, Russia, the United States and Australia.

- NZ Herald

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