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ICBC plans acquisitions in Middle East

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China will consider acquisitions in the Middle East as part of plans to boost earnings from the region by 50% this year. The bank’s CEO to the Middle East Zhou Xiaodong said the bank is looking to see if there are acquisition opportunities. Part of the reason why the bank grew so fast in Hong Kong is because of acquisitions, he pointed out. ICBC is seeking to triple overseas earnings by 2016 and targeting more business with Middle Eastern companies after previously focusing on the local units of Chinese firms in the region. Profit from the Middle East amounted to $33 million in 2013, Zhou said, and the bank plans to open retail branches in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. ICBC lent $600 million to regional clients including Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Dubai Electricity & Water Authority in 2013. This year it is seeking to boost lending to Dubai real estate projects, energy companies in Abu Dhabi and infrastructure work in Qatar. China is the third-largest trading partner with the United Arab Emirates, and the second-largest trading partner with Saudi Arabia. Trade with Saudi Arabia rose by 188 percent between 2007 and 2012. ICBC expects to become the first Chinese lender in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s largest economy, when it opens later this year in Riyadh and may also apply for two further branches in the country, Zhou said. It’s also in talks with the Central Bank of the U.A.E. about retail branches in the country.

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