Bank of East Asia, Hong Kong's fifth-largest lender, expects that its new credit card business on the mainland will not make a profit in the next four to five years as it takes a go-slow stance in the consumer loan sector. The bank yesterday became the first overseas lender to issue its own yuan-denominated credit cards on the mainland in a major move to tap the potentially huge market. 'We expect to make a profit in four to five years,' Chan Kay-cheung, a vice-chairman of Bank of East Asia (China), told a press conference in Shanghai. 'By then, we will see a fast expansion of the business.' Credit cards have yet to become a money-spinner for most financial firms on the mainland, as many of the country's consumers prefer debit cards. China Citic Bank Corp is the only lender that has said it is making a profit from its credit card business. In May, BEA also became the first overseas bank to issue a yuan-denominated debit card. Lam Chi-man, an executive vice-president of BEA's mainland operations, said the bank hoped the credit-card business would grow at a steady pace, with a focus on client quality rather than quantity. BEA will compete with mainland banks and rivals such as HSBC and Citigroup, which operate credit-card businesses jointly with their local partners. Foreign lenders needed to expand their networks before they could really profit from the fast-growing banking card business, analysts said. Mr Chan said credit card business could attract more corporate clients such as retailers. It would also allow BEA to better serve its existing VIP customers. The bank posted a profit of HK$926 million on the mainland last year, an increase of 73 per cent from 2006 and accounting for 22.34 per cent of its total profit. Non-interest income on the mainland made up 9 per cent of its total. Beijing liberalised the banking sector in 2006, allowing foreign lenders to operate yuan-denominated services after they are locally incorporated. Citigroup, BEA, Standard Chartered and HSBC were the first four foreign banks to make inroads into the market.