Bank loaning $100m for Wellington project seeks more

The world's biggest bank wants to fund more New Zealand infrastructure, citing bridges, railways, motorways, schools and utility power and water services.

Yi Huiman, global chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, is here to meet government officials and a statement from the bank detailed expansion plans here.

Karen Hou, the bank's New Zealand chief executive, said her organisation saw infrastructure as a priority.

"Mr Yi's visit shows how important New Zealand is to our global business. Infrastructure is a big focus for ICBC and we see an opportunity to support New Zealand with its investment in this area. We can bring not only funding but experience and expertise across a range of infrastructure classes, such as bridges, railways, motorways, schools, power and water," Hou said.


Don Brash, the former Reserve Bank governor, is the bank's chairman and he also cited infrastructure funding.

"In Auckland alone, more than $20 billion of spending is planned for transport infrastructure in the next decade. This investment is needed to keep pace with population growth, upgrade existing infrastructure and improve productivity. New Zealand needs a diversified mix of funding sources for this investment and we can play a role in this," Brash said.

The bank statement said more.

"Mr Yi's visit follows the recently announced joint plan between the Government and the Auckland Council for Auckland's transport priorities over the next 30 years, including motorway upgrades, new busways and upgrades to the rail network. Work recently began on the City Rail Link, while an additional Waitemata Harbour crossing is in the planning stages. Big projects outside of Auckland include Wellington's Transmission Gully motorway, Tauranga's Northern Link road and several key pieces of infrastructure in the Christchurch rebuild," the statement said.

"This year ICBC injected a further $84 million of capital into ICBC New Zealand to support its lending growth, with infrastructure lending one of the key objectives. Mrs Hou says ICBC is looking at opportunities both in nationally significant projects and small-scale local works," the statement said.

Don Brash, bank chairman, cited infrastructure funding. Photo/Brett Phibbs
Don Brash, bank chairman, cited infrastructure funding. Photo/Brett Phibbs

"ICBC lent $100 million on the Transmission Gully project and we are looking forward to helping New Zealand fund other essential projects. We see New Zealand as one end of an important economic corridor stretching from the South Pacific through South-East Asia to Europe," Hou said.

David Tripe, associate professor of Banking Studies at Massey University, says Auckland is an obvious market for the three big Chinese banks now operating here.

Those are ICBC, Bank of China and China Construction Bank.

But Tripe says the big three would also be aware of the risks of lending to "thinly capitalised" developers in an area where the main banks are "gun shy".

Tripe said the Chinese banks had a competitive advantage in dealing with Chinese firms and migrants, but were also well aware property development is a risky business, dealing with issues such as under-capitalised developers and delays caused by councils.

A few months ago, China Construction Bank New Zealand got received a $140 million capital injection from its Beijing-based parent in a move its boss has described as a "vote of confidence" in the Chinese lender's local unit.

In February, Spanish authorities arrested six executives from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, accusing them of facilitating a Chinese money-laundering network.