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ICBC Opens Second Italian Branch in Rome
 

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world's biggest bank by assets, officially inaugurated its second Italian subsidiary here on Monday.

The first ICBC branch in the country had been opened in Milan, which is Italy's main economic and financial hub, in 2011.

The decision to open a second local branch "highlights how the bank has entered a new stage of development of business in Italy and in Europe," according to a statement from ICBC.

ICBC Chairman Jiang Jianqing and Chinese Ambassador to Italy Li Ruiyu attended the opening ceremony held in Rome, together with Counsellor to Italy's Minister of Economy and Finance Stefano Scalera, and other senior Italian officials.

"Since we launched our business in Italy, we have witnessed a relevant and rapid development of the bilateral ties between Italy and China," Jiang stressed in his inaugurating speech.

The opening of Rome's branch came in a relevant period, since this year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries, according to the ICBC chairman.

Adding to this, the 2015 Expo Milan event has served as a major boost for the interest of Chinese investors and entrepreneurs in the country.

"Acquisitions (in Italy) have developed much in the last period, contributing to a greater integration between Italian luxury brands and technology and Chinese capitals," Jiang said.

Within the European Union (EU), Italy is overall China's fifth largest trade partner, the third largest and the fifth largest in terms of export of technology and foreign direct investments (FDI) to China, respectively.

Italy has also become one of the main recipients of Chinese investments in Europe in latest years, and ranked second after UK with estimated 3.09 billion euros ($3.5 billion) of Chinese FDI in 2014.

Chinese investments have made for some 27 percent of all FDI Italy received last year, according to recent data by Chinese rating agency Dagong Europe.

Furthermore, Italy is also the second largest manufacturing power in the EU, which might offer further opportunities to Chinese companies going global, officials at the ceremony stressed.

"Over 100 Chinese firms currently have headquarters in Italy," Chinese Ambassador to Italy Li Ruiyu said.

"A large number of Chinese delegations from 20 different Chinese provinces have also visited the Expo Milan, opening new cooperation projects with Italian counterparts," he added.

On the other hand, China is Italy's first trade partner in Asia, and the second top export destination country outside Europe after the Unites States.

Such developments in bilateral trade and business would bring about an increase in the demand of financial services, according to Italian officials.

"Improving Italy's competitiveness and attract more foreign investments, especially in infrastructures, is one of the three main pillars of the government's current economic policy," ministerial counsellor Scalera said.

"ICBC can play a primary role in this field, and the opening of the branch in Rome is a strong signal," he added.

ICBC provides financial services and products to over 460 million individual customers and 5 million corporate clients through some 400 overseas branches in 42 different countries, according to the bank.

Such global dimension might be another key factor from an Italian perspective, especially since the backbone of Italy's economy is made of small and medium-sized firms that struggle more than bigger ones to get funding.

"Italian companies must increase their internationalization process in order to grow, and a global bank can be of much use to them in this," said Giuliano Noci, Vice Rector for China with Politecnico University in Milan.

(Xinhua News Agency October 19, 2015)

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