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Fubon's mainland plan faces political hurdles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am

Fubon Bank (Hong Kong), the locally listed unit of Taiwan's Fubon Financial Holding, plans to establish a leasing business on the mainland, but analysts say it must first overcome political hurdles in Taipei.

Taiwan regulators have not been quick to grant approval to the deal, especially with presidential elections coming up.

Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission has agreed in principle to Fubon Financial's plan to let its Hong Kong bank invest US$10 million in a leasing unit, according to the Economic Daily News. But the deal awaits final approval from the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

A spokeswoman for Fubon Bank (Hong Kong) declined to comment. 'It's not easy [to get the approval] politically,' said William Wong Kwong-wai, an analyst at BOCI Research.

Other analysts say cross-strait deals may be difficult given tense relations between the mainland and Taiwan.

Mr Wong said the China Banking Regulatory Commission had encouraged mainland lenders to expand into leasing business. Since leasing is a relatively smaller business than banking, it might be easier to get a licence.

'It could be Fubon's first step to enter the mainland financial market, if it is successful,' he said. But the 'track record' suggested it could be difficult.

Fubon Financial's acquisition of the former International Bank of Asia for HK$3.2 billion in 2003 was seen as a springboard to tapping the mainland's fledgling financial market.

However, Fubon (HK) has yet to receive the green light to open its first representative office in Dongguan in Guangdong province, which analysts attributed to political resistance from Taiwan's regulatory authority.

There had been speculation that Fubon (HK) was planning to invest in Xiamen City Commercial Bank but no deal has been announced.

'I think it will be hard for Fubon to get regulatory approval, particularly in this election year,' said another analyst.

Moreover, Beijing places stringent requirements on foreign banks setting up leasing companies on the mainland. Fubon might have difficulty getting the nod from mainland regulators since it has no presence in the country.

Meanwhile, ICBC Financial Leasing, a unit of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, said it secured its first contract, a one billion yuan aircraft sale and leaseback deal with Grand China Express Airlines, a joint venture between HNA Group and its listed unit, Hainan Airlines.

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