Citi targets Belt and Road revenue boost

BEIJING • Citigroup expects to boost its revenue growth in China by tapping opportunities presented by Beijing's Belt & Road Initiative, the bank's China chief said.

The New York-based lender is one of a handful of global banks promoting its cross-border capabilities to capitalise on President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative.

The initiative, unveiled in 2013, aims to bolster China's global leadership ambitions by building infrastructure and trade links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

"We're seeing more and more multinational customers benefiting from Belt and Road, mostly through supplying to the Belt and Road projects, particularly companies in the industrial sector," Ms Christine Lam, Citigroup's chief executive for China, told Reuters last Thursday. She was speaking on the sidelines of a conference hosted by Citigroup in Beijing.

Rivals HSBC Holdings, Standard Chartered and Credit Suisse also have promoted their cross-border capital markets and cash management services to leverage Belt and Road opportunities.

China is one of eight Asian markets that produce US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) or more in revenue for Citigroup. The bank's China unit reported about US$770 million in revenue last year, representing a fall of 10.5 per cent, following the sale of its stake in Guangfa Bank. Profits increased about 1 per cent to US$163 million.

Citigroup has banking relationships with over 80 per cent of Fortune 500 firms in China, Ms Lam said, and provides services in 58 markets in so-called Belt and Road countries.

The bank expects to book more revenue from providing services for Belt and Road-related activities, she added.

Most Belt and Road opportunities are financed by government-owned policy and commercial lenders, with China Construction Bank Corp and Bank of China raising billion-dollar funds for future investment.

Ms Lam said Citigroup is also looking to increase service to Chinese state-owned enterprises and other multinationals investing overseas, and has established nine China desks in locations around the world, including Dubai, Nairobi and Kazakhstan.

Separately, Ms Lam said Citigroup has already benefited from ongoing discussions between Washington and Beijing over expanding access to China's financial markets.

In February, Citigroup became the first US-based bank to secure a licence to act as a bond settlement agent in China's interbank bond market, allowing its local unit to compete alongside Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas in the country's US$9 trillion bond market.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Citi targets Belt and Road revenue boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe