The Bank of China (BOC) early this month held a party to celebrate its 90th birthday, attended by the country's financial mandarins. Bank president Liu Mingkang told the gathering: 'Through 10 years of work and restructuring, we have become one of the leading international banks in the world.' He made no mention of his predecessor, Wang Xuebing, or the revelations of fraud, malpractice and corruption that followed Wang's arrest on January 11. The next day, the People's Daily looked back on how far the bank had come since its foundation in February 1912, with the approval of Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, on the site of what had been the Great Qing bank in Shanghai, set up at the end of the last imperial dynasty. 'It has built up an excellent image in the global financial community. For 12 years, the bank has been rated among the Fortune 500 companies and for eight years the 'best bank in China' by Euromoney,' it said. The party marked the beginning of the bank's strategy, after Wang's arrest, to win back investor confidence for its plan to raise up to US$5 billion from dual listings in the first half of this year of its SAR operations in New York and Hong Kong. The line in the official media is the problems that surfaced during Wang's tenure from December 1993 to February 2000 have been identified and dealt with and new procedures put in place. Whether investors buy this is another matter. An American banker in Beijing said: 'The bank should postpone its listing until next year. How can the bank with a dirty record go to the market so soon? The market will find it difficult to accept. Malpractices like this will cause problems for less well-known Chinese firms, although big companies should be able to weather it.' A mainland banker in Hong Kong agreed: 'It cannot list this year. In Hong Kong or New York, you need to sell to big European and North American investors, who will be angry at all these revelations. You cannot rely on just the small investors. It will be hard to win back the confidence of investors so quickly. The fine in the US is especially important, since it was seen by US investors.' This was a fine of US$10 million, which the United States Comptroller of the Currency imposed on the bank for irregularities at its US branch. The bank also needed to pay another US$10 million to the People's Bank of China. 'Who will believe the bank has been reformed? Investors do not believe the state-owned companies have been reformed. Chinese banks have internal standards but no one enforces them. When banks list, investors demand higher standards than for other companies,' the banker said. Others are more optimistic. Lehman Brothers global chief economist John Llewellyn said there had been problems in all transition economies involving state companies and the creation of a viable banking system. 'There is no case where this process has gone smoothly. People in China are determined to make a success of this and are more likely to succeed than in other countries. We are encouraged by the recognition of the problem of non-performing loans in the banks and steps to resolve it,' he said. Meanwhile, the Caijing magazine earlier this month listed seven major corruption cases in the bank uncovered since May. The biggest involved theft of US$500 million between 1992 and October last year by the chief and two managers of the Kaiping branch in Guangdong, with the police forces of Canada and Hong Kong involved in the search for the missing money.