Bank of Communications (Bocom), which introduced its first corporate tax loan yesterday, expects more corporate and syndicated lending next year as demand for loans from small and medium-sized enterprises has been on the increase. Assistant general manager Li Siu-kei said the bank recorded a more than 10 per cent rise in commercial lending in the past 10 months. Commercial loans formed half of Bocom's lending business, with small and medium-sized enterprises accounting for 30 to 50 per cent of those loans. Mr Li believed small and medium-sized enterprises had the potential to expand their business. 'The local economy has been picking up since last year. The closer economic partnership arrangement and the individual travel scheme for mainland tourists help local small and medium-sized enterprises expand their business in Hong Kong and on the mainland,' he said. 'It's a win-win situation as these arrangements enable local and mainland enterprises to become business partners.' He expected the bank's commercial lending to grow between 10 and 20 per cent next year. Bocom's corporate tax loan is aimed at companies with a turnover of less than $50 million. The maximum loan amount is $1 million or 200 per cent of the profits tax, with the interest rate set at prime minus 1.25 per cent and the repayment period ranging from six to 12 months. The firms could also use the loan for other financing arrangements, Mr Li said. He added the bank, which now employed 1,200 staff, would hire 2 to 3 per cent more frontline employees by the end of the year to strengthen its commercial lending services. It had added about 40 staff earlier to cope with the growing demand for commercial loans.