HSBC has forged an alliance with yet another of the Big Four state-owned banks in the mainland in a bid to expand its services there. Under a piggy-back agreement signed yesterday with China Construction Bank, HSBC will be allowed to use the mainland bank's 7,000-branch network to transfer yuan for customers. The remittance and clearing agreement marked a milestone in HSBC's efforts to increase co-operation with mainland banks, said the bank's representative in the mainland, Eddie Wang. '. . . Construction Bank of China's extensive presence on the mainland, and HSBC's global network, will bring great benefits to our customers,' he said. An HSBC spokesperson added that internal remittance of yuan for its mainland customers might previously have taken several days since it would require funds to be transferred between several local banks before they reached their destination. 'Now we can tap directly into the China Construction Bank's network and provide a much more efficient service to our customers,' she said. The move is the latest in a series of agreements between HSBC and mainland banks. In October, HSBC secured a funding lifeline from the Bank of China which provided a three billion yuan (about HK$2.8 billion) line of credit on which it could draw to make loans to yuan customers - presently restricted to foreign nationals or foreign-invested corporations. Though HSBC has one of the largest networks of foreign banks in the mainland, with just nine branches and a restricted customer base it is unable to fund its loanbook from deposits and depends on the credit line to lend in yuan. HSBC has also entered an ATM-sharing agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) which allows customers to use ATM cards issued in Hong Kong to withdraw yuan and check account balances on selected ICBC ATMs in Guangzhou and Shanghai. Hong Kong-listed HSBC is engaged in a turf war among foreign banks operating on the mainland and its major rival is London-listed Standard Chartered, which boasts a wider representation in 15 mainland cities. Standard Chartered tackled the challenge of funds transfer around the mainland by becoming the first foreign bank to sign with the People's Bank of China's electronic settlement system in January, which enabled funds transfers between member banks and provided same-day transfers in 500 mainland cities.