September 22, 2017 / 9:04 AM / in a month

Citigroup targets Belt and Road to boost China revenue

BEIJING (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc (C.N) expects to boost its revenue growth in China by tapping into opportunities presented by Beijing’s Belt & Road initiative, the bank’s China chief said.

A man walks past a branch of Citibank in Beijing, China, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The New York-based lender is one of a handful of global banks promoting its cross-border capabilities to capitalize 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 into the Belt and Road projects, particularly companies in the industrial sector,” Christine Lam, Citigroup’s chief executive for China, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

Lam was speaking on the sidelines of a conference hosted by Citigroup in Beijing this week.

Rivals HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L), Standard Chartered (STAN.L), and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) 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 $1 billion or more in revenue for Citigroup. The bank’s local unit reported about $770 million in revenue last year, representing a decline of 10.5 percent, following the sale of its stake in Guangfa Bank. Profits increased about 1 percent to $163 million.

Citigroup has banking relationships with more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies in China, 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, including mergers and acquisitions, cash management, trade finance and hedging, Lam said.

Most Belt and Road opportunities are financed by government-owned policy and commercial lenders, with China Construction Bank Corp (601939.SS)(0939.HK) and Bank of China (601988.SS)(3988.HK) raising billion-dollar funds for future investment.

Lam said that 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, Lam said that 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 U.S.-based bank to secure a license to act as a bond settlement agent in China’s interbank bond market, allowing its local unit to compete alongside Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) and BNP Paribas SA (BNPP.PA) in the country’s $9 trillion bond market.

Reporting By Matthew Miller; Additional reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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