The U.K. will allow Chinese banks to set up branches for wholesale banking, offering them an opportunity to expand as the British government seeks to establish London as a hub for offshore yuan trading.
Lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the world’s largest by market value, have operated in the U.K. through subsidiaries, regulated the same way as local banks and subject to the same capital requirements, rather than branches. The new structure will let them “significantly scale up their activity in the U.K.,” Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in Beijing yesterday.
The change is part of a series of agreements including the introduction of direct trading between the yuan and the British pound, which may help London steal a march on Frankfurt and Paris to become Europe’s hub for the Chinese currency. Osborne is in Beijing on a five-day trade mission seeking to strengthen links with the world’s second-largest economy.
“With branches you’re not talking about a separately capitalized legal entity, so potentially there is a lower absolute capital requirement,” said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec Plc in London.
The two countries also agreed on an 80 billion-yuan ($13 billion) quota for financial institutions in London to invest in China’s domestic securities under the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program, Osborne said at a briefing after meeting Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai. China and the U.K. will ensure access to yuan liquidity through additional settlement and clearing agreements in London, he said.
Press officers at ICBC and its two largest peers, China Construction Bank Corp. and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., had no immediate comment on whether they will apply to open branches.
By allowing Chinese banks in the U.K. to access their parents’ balance sheets, the new rules may increase funding for U.K. investment in industries such as infrastructure, TheCityUK, a lobby group for British financial-services companies, said in an e-mailed statement.