Dutch firm ING Group's mainland fund joint venture and two home-based fund managers have won regulatory approval to launch China's first money-market funds. The long-awaited approvals on Wednesday would expand the narrow range of low-risk fund products available to Chinese investors and signal an improvement in co-ordination between the country's securities and banking regulators, analysts said. 'This is an important step forward in the development of the investment industry in China,' ING Investment Management Asia-Pacific chief Chris Ryan said. ING's Shenzhen joint venture, China Merchants Fund Management (CMFM) began operations early this year and will start selling its second mutual fund on Monday. The China Merchants Cash Plus Fund, which will close its initial public offering on January 12, will invest in Chinese investment-grade bonds, treasury bills, bond repurchase agreements and other regulator-approved cash and fixed-income instruments. Hua'an Fund Management and Shenzhen-based Boshi Fund Management also won the regulatory nod for their money-market funds. Hua'an executive vice-president Shang Jian had said the new fund, which will launch its IPO on Sunday, would invest in bank-endorsed commercial bills. Traded on secondary markets and allowing continuous redemption with low fees, money-market funds are considered a higher-yield alternative to bank deposits. With low domestic interest rates and stock indices that have been among the worst performing in the world this year, there is a huge demand for low-risk alternatives. However, fund managers earlier this year were asked to withdraw their money-market fund applications due to the absence of relevant rules and poor co-ordination between regulators. Analysts said the formation of the China Banking Regulatory Commission earlier this year had helped reduce the hurdles obstructing money-market funds.