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ABN to expand China consumer bank business

ABN to expand China consumer bank business

SHANGHAI - ABN AMRO NV said on Monday it has been approved by Chinese authorities to accept foreign currency deposits from Chinese nationals and will expand its consumer banking services in the country. The Netherlands' biggest bank said in a statement it planned a capital injection of 100 million yuan ($12 million) and will launch its "Van Gogh Preferred Banking" premium services in Shanghai by the end of the year.

"This expansion coincides with ABN AMRO's 100th year of business in China in 2003 and is based on our strong belief in the long-term potential of both the corporate and retail sectors," said Michiel van Schaardenburg, the bank's country representative for China, in the statement.

Prior to China's entry into the World Trade Organisation late last year, the government had barred foreign banks from any dealings with local individuals or companies to protect its own backward banking sector.

But under its WTO commitments, China has promised to open the market gradually to foreign players, starting with allowing them to conduct foreign currency businesses with Chinese companies and individuals this year.

Other foreign banks approved to launch this service include Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of East Asia, Hang Seng Bank, Wing Hang Bank and United Overseas Bank.

Several have also started to offer premium personal banking services in recent months to attract a relatively wealthy clientele that saves foreign currencies.

Analysts, however, have said it would be difficult for foreign banks to make much headway into the Chinese market until they can take yuan deposits from Chinese companies and individuals in two to five years.

"Van Gogh Preferred Banking is available exclusively to successful individuals who can enjoy a high standard of financial advisory services," said Jerry Letendre, ABN's CEO of Consumer and Commercial Banking, Greater China, in the statement.

The service helps customers build a financial plan to match their earnings capability with investment options and long-term goals, he said.

ABN said it now serves mainly multinational companies. The bank has branches in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and representative offices in Guangzhou, Tianjin and Wuhan.

Its products in China include treasury, debt and equity capital raising, project and trade finance.

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