ICBC Plans to Open Branch in Brazil After U.S. Bank Takeover

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (601398) Ltd., the world’s biggest lender by market value, plans to open a bank in Brazil, extending its reach to Latin America’s largest economy after expanding in Europe and the U.S.

ICBC intends to set up a full-service bank, ICBC do Brasil Banco Multiplo SA, in Sao Paulo with initial capital of $100 million, Brazil’s central bank said in a statement. ICBC, based in Beijing, is seeking Banco Central do Brasil’s approval to become the second Chinese lender to establish operations after Bank of China Ltd. received authorization to open a branch in Brazil in February 2009.

The announcement came as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited China, with plans to pressure government officials to buy more of the South American nation’s goods. ICBC agreed to buy 80 percent of Bank of East Asia Ltd.’ U.S. unit for $140 million in January, the first Chinese takeover of a U.S. retail bank, and added branches in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Milan and Madrid the same month.

“This is part of a national ‘go-out’ strategy to deploy investment and capital in countries or regions where there are rich resources or booming trade and commercial activities by Chinese enterprises,” said Zhang Yidong, a Shanghai-based analyst at Industrial Securities Co.

Overseas Branches

Chairman Jiang Jianqing has spent more than $6 billion on acquisitions in regions spanning from Asia to South Africa and America over the past two years as he seeks to triple the share of profit coming from abroad to 10 percent. Operating income from ICBC’s overseas businesses accounted for 3 percent of its total at the end of last year, according to its annual report.

ICBC opened 12 overseas branches last year, taking the total to 203 and extending its reach to 28 countries and districts. These units had combined assets of $75.7 billion as of December, an increase of 45 percent from a year earlier, and their pretax profit rose 37 percent to $1.19 billion.

ICBC has made an offer to buy the Argentine unit of Standard Bank Group Ltd., Buenos Aires-based newspaper El Cronista reported March 21.

The U.S. deal, signed during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S., would give ICBC 10 branches in California and three in New York after approval by regulators in both countries.

A call to ICBC’s New York branch after business hours was referred to the investor relations department in Beijing, where no one answered the phone.

Rousseff-Hu Meeting

The governments of Brazil and China welcome the establishment of branches of each other’s financial institutions, said a joint statement signed by Rousseff and Hu after their meeting today, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Rousseff will attend the summit of the so-called BRIC nations, or Brazil, Russia, India and China, on April 14.

China imported $30.8 billion of goods from Brazil last year, an increase of 46.6 percent from a year earlier, the Caixin magazine reported on its web site yesterday.

“We want to increase exports of goods and services with more value, more industrialized goods, and we’ll also sign agreements in science and technology,” Rousseff said in the weekly radio program posted on the presidency’s website.

ICBC rose 0.4 percent to 4.61 yuan at the close of trading in Shanghai, bringing the gains this year to 8.7 percent. It shares closed at HK$6.51 in Hong Kong, down 2.1 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Francisco Marcelino in Sao Paulo at mdeoliveira@bloomberg.net; Belinda Cao in New York at lcao4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Telma Marotto at tmarotto1@bloomberg.net

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