Approval should come soon for the 14-year-old bank to list on the stock market in the first half of this year, and it should quickly become both a major lender to the booming domestic market and an international investor following both its own commercial instincts and national policy objectives. And, while it may be obscure, it is already China’s most profitable bank and one of the biggest bond issuers in the country.
Even before the change, the bank has been aggressively carving out a foreign presence. As an indication of its ambitions, it acquired a stake in Barclays Bank last July, has invested in six overseas funds, including two worth a combined US$10 billion in Africa and Venezuela, and was about to bid for a stake in Citibank in January when the State Council vetoed the idea. It is looking eagerly for other foreign acquisitions.