The Bank of East Asia has begun talks to make its first foreign-currency loan to a mainland Chinese customer, according to chairman and chief executive David Li Kwok-po. 'The amounts are quite large, because they are for project financing,' Mr Li said after the bank's annual general meeting yesterday. 'We have already taken our first deposits - not a huge amount, but two of our branches have begun taking deposits, and we are talking to a number of people about foreign-currency loans. Mainly they are interested in Hong Kong dollar loans, rather than US dollar.' The bank said last week it had become the first Hong Kong bank to be licensed by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) to begin providing foreigncurrency products and services to mainland individuals and companies. Until now, foreign banks have been restricted to dealing with foreign customers on the mainland. Still waiting for licences are other major Hong Kong lenders such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, while Citibank last week became the first global bank to obtain a foreign-currency licence. Mr Li said the project under discussion was for financing equipment in south China, and the bank was also discussing the alternatives of lease financing with clients. Still to be introduced for retail customers was a credit card, he said, and the bank had also applied to the PBOC for permission to introduce cyber-banking services in the mainland. Mr Li said he would host a lunch for fellow bankers and legislators next Thursday to discuss the issue of a positive credit bureau. He believed such a bureau would be introduced before the end of the year.