Qingdao, a second-tier port town on the Yellow Sea, is the latest gateway to the new silk road, or at least that’s Bank of Qingdao’s message to investors in Hong Kong. The city commercial lender, one of many in a queue of small banks looking to go public in Hong Kong, announced on Thursday that it will seek to raise up to HK$4.32 billion in an initial public offering starting on Friday. The shares are expected to start trading on December 3. The bank will look to sell 990 million shares at between HK$4.75 and HK$5.21. While mainland companies once sold public stakes to investors looking to capture a sliver of domestic growth, firms today are hawking off a share in China’s grand attempt to open direct links with the markets stretching from Central Asia to Europe. At a press conference in Hong Kong on Thursday, the bank pitched its link with China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan, the state-led project set to invest tens of billions of dollars into foreign ports and railway lines. One slide during the bank’s presentation showed a line leading from Qingdao all the way to Khorgos, a town on the border with Kazakhstan. On the domestic front, where almost all small lender business is based, banks are dishing up an increasing level of risk. As proxies to a slowing economy, bad debt is on the rise at Chinese banks and experts say that has hurt the IPO prospects of many small banks. At least 10 are eyeing a listing. Bank of Qingdao’s non-performing loan (NPL) ratio was 1.19 per cent at the end of June, below the sector average. Like its peers, its biggest customers are state-owned builders and manufacturing companies, sectors at the forefront of China’s economic downshift. Bank of Qingdao’s target for the IPO was notably smaller than the last city lender to list in Hong Kong. Shengjing Bank’s priced at HK$7.56 for an offer of HK10.4 billion in December last year.