Eight city commercial banks in Zhejiang province have unveiled plans to attract private capital to bolster their resilience in the face of an onslaught of domestic and foreign competition. The eastern coastal province lenders hope to enhance their chances of survival and growth. The mainland's city commercial banks are majority owned by local-level governments, with minority interests held by private parties. An official from Hangzhou City Commercial Bank said: 'A consensus emerged among the eight banks at a recent meeting that attracting private capital is the key to business development.' They hoped their equity holdings would be controlled by the private sector within the next few years. The other banks are Ningbo City Commercial Bank, Wenzhou City Commercial Bank, Taishan City Commercial Bank, Jiaxing City Commercial Bank, Jinhua City Commercial Bank, Huzhou City Commercial Bank and Shaoxing Bank. Among mainland financial institutions, city commercial banks are seen as having the weakest competitive power as the country prepares to open the banking sector further to foreign players in the wake of its accession to the World Trade Organisation. State-owned banks and other shareholding commercial banks have stronger asset bases and better networks. In an effort to restructure the financial sector, the past few years have seen Beijing consolidate most of the thousands of urban credit co-operatives into more than 100 city commercial banks. Their asset bases are small and their operations are limited to the regions in which they are registered. The Hangzhou City Commercial Bank official said it was seeking to attract private capital to double shareholders' funds to more than one billion yuan (about HK$937.2 million) from 520 million yuan. Last year the bank earned 80 million yuan. 'We are in preliminary talks with some private enterprises to invite them as shareholders,' he said. The city government controls 60 per cent of the lender, with the private sector holding the balance. The objective is to dilute the government's holdings to 30 per cent. Ningbo City Commercial Bank said plans to attract more private capital were expected to go ahead next year. But a bank official said the Ningbo city government still had to give its approval. A People's Bank of China official said there was no rule against the private sector taking a controlling stake in a mainland bank. But still, approval from the central bank would depend on individual cases. Approval was needed if a single private investor wanted to buy more than 10 per cent in a city commercial bank, according to the Hangzhou City Commercial Bank official. The total assets of the eight banks are estimated at 60.2 billion yuan, according to mainland newspaper China Business Times. Their outstanding loans totalled 30.92 billion yuan and they had deposits of 44.6 billion yuan.