The chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Jiang Jianqing, is poised to retire and will help set up a Chinese government fund aimed at promoting investment in Central and Eastern Europe, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Jiang, 63, has led China’s biggest bank for 16 years, overcoming an insolvency crisis when its non-performing loan ratio was more than 20% in 2004, and orchestrating a $19.1bn dual listing in 2006 – the world’s biggest initial public offering at that time.
The move was revealed at an internal meeting on Wednesday, the sources said, adding that Jiang will still be involved in ICBC’s globalisation strategy after his retirement.
The exact timing of Jiang’s departure and his successor are unclear.
The new fund was floated by China’s Premier Li Keqiang last November during a summit with leaders from 16 Central and Eastern European countries. It will play a key part of China’s modern Silk Road strategy to expand the country’s economic and political influence in a region seen as a gateway to the European Union.
The “16+1 multilateral finance company”, as Li proposed, will finance trade and investment, reducing financing costs and removing the need for governments to provide guarantees.
“ICBC is taking a leading role in setting up the new Central and Eastern Europe fund and chairman Jiang is working on that,” said a source. The sources, who were not authorised to speak to the media, declined to be identified.
A Beijing-based spokesman for ICBC declined to comment.
China Business News first reported Jiang’s imminent retirement on Thursday.
ICBC reported flat earnings for the first quarter this year. Like other major Chinese banks, it is seeing margins squeezed by the central bank’s successive rate cuts and profitability and capital buffers eroded by rising bad debt.
Shares of ICBC fell about 1% in Hong Kong by midday yesterday.
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