THE Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) officially opened its Hong Kong branch yesterday and said it would serve as the 'window, bridge and strategic base' of the mainland specialised bank. President Shi Jiliang said: 'The Hong Kong branch will be a strategic base to woo future international business and its service areas cover Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and other Southeast Asian countries.' Hong Kong branch general manager Li Chuzhang said the branch would sign its first syndicated loan of $50 million for the Liu Chong Hing Group today. The branch had launched a $500 million floating rate certificate of deposit issue, he said, and planned to increase the issue's size. The bank was given approval to establish a branch in the territory by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority last month, along with the other two mainland specialised banks - the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the People's Construction Bank of China. The Bank of China was the first mainland specialised bank to have a branch in Hong Kong. Mr Shi said that ABC was hiving off its non-financial operations in accordance with mainland regulations, expecting the spin-off of its securities business to be completed by the first half of next year. The bank has more than 58,000 banking offices across China and has total assets of about 1.25 trillion yuan (about HK$1.16 trillion). The opening of the Hong Kong branch follows ABC's first overseas branch, which was opened in Singapore in July. The bank has representative offices in London and Tokyo.