Bank of Tianjin, in which Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. holds a 20 percent stake, received a license to operate regionally from China's banking regulator, according to a company statement.
Bank of Tianjin, based in the northeastern Chinese city of the same name, has applied to become China's first city commercial bank to open a regional branch in Beijing, according to an e-mailed statement from Sydney-based ANZ Bank.
China's more than 110 city commercial banks are less competitive than bigger banks including Bank of China Co. because they have less funds and are restricted in where they can operate. The government has been prodding banks to sell stakes to the public, including overseas strategic investors, to help them boost capital and improve management.
Strong growth and internal reforms ``position Bank of Tianjin well for its longer-term plans to complete an initial public offering,'' Bob Edgar, ANZ's senior managing director, said in the statement, without providing further details.
Bank of Tianjin seeks to open branches in other major cities in China subject to regulatory approval, the statement said.
Profit at the Chinese bank, formerly known as Tianjin City Commercial Bank, rose 18.9 percent to 517 million yuan ($66.9 million) last year, the statement also said. The bank's total assets grew 17.4 percent to 81.1 billion in 2006, and its bad loans ratio fell to 3.89 percent from 7 percent a year earlier, according to the statement.
Assets at China's city commercial banks total 2.6 trillion yuan to date, surging from 700 billion yuan in 2000, Tang Shuangning, vice chairman of the nation's banking regulator, said on April 13. The banks had profits of 18.1 billion yuan last year, compared with 1.3 billion yuan in 2000, he said.
Nine of China's city-based lenders including Bank of Shanghai, Beijing City Commercial Bank and Nanjing City Commercial Bank have sold shares to investors, raising about $1.2 billion so far.
More than 10 city banks, including those based in Chongqing, Dalian, Changsha, Wuhan, Nanchang and Shenyang are in talks to sell stakes to overseas banks to boost capital and improve competitiveness, the banking watchdog said in June.