ICICI Bank, India's second-largest bank, will open its first Hong Kong branch this year to capture growing business opportunities with China. 'ICICI is in the process of applying for a licence to set up a branch in Hong Kong,' the bank's joint managing director, Lalita Gupte, told the South China Morning Post. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference organised by Asia Asset Management, Ms Gupte said the branch would handle corporate banking and trade financing, and provide services for Hong Kong's sizeable Indian community. 'We would like to use Hong Kong as a gateway to the China market,' she said. 'We would also like to provide services for the many Indian companies operating in Hong Kong and for the Indian community here. 'With increasing cross-border trading between China and India, Hong Kong is an ideal place to provide financial services.' Hong Kong is home to about 35,000 ethnic Indians, many of whom are active in trading and financial services. With assets of US$38 billion as of March, ICICI is India's largest private-sector bank. It began to expand its overseas business three years ago by establishing International Banking Group to support Indian companies abroad. Today the bank has subsidiaries in Britain and Canada, branch operations in Singapore and Bahrain and representative offices in New York, Shanghai, Johannesburg and Bangladesh. Speaking at the same conference, Ravi Narain, chief executive of the National Stock Exchange of India, said that the bourse is considering signing memorandums of understanding with stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai to enhance co-operation and aid regular visits, training and information sharing. The exchange has 950 listed securities and a market capitalisation of US$380 billion. It provides online trading in 400 cities across India for equities, futures, options and bonds. The exchange is also planning to launch Indian depository receipts (IDRs) that would allow overseas companies to raise funds in the subcontinent, though Mr Narain provided no timetable for this. 'It is very unlikely that we will be a competitor of the [Hong Kong stock exchange],' he said. 'I don't think in the short run we will be able to list Chinese enterprises on our market. 'The purpose of the IDR programme is to help smaller companies in neighbouring countries, such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, to raise capital more easily. These companies would find it easier to raise money in India than in their home markets.'