The world’s biggest lender, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), is poised to receive a license to operate in Greece, with sources telling Kathimerini that negotiations are already at an advanced stage.
ICBC representatives have already held talks with officials at the Economy and Development Ministry, as well as taking the necessary steps with the Bank of Greece so that the bank can apply for a license as soon as possible, the sources said.
The focus of ICBC’s interest will be investments in banking, industry and infrastructure, which are its areas of expertise, while it is also said to be interested in funding large investment projects and not necessarily those of Chinese companies and groups that already have a presence in Greece.
ICBC is already active in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Great Britain, and while it could use its European passport to enter Greece, it intends to make its foray into this market via a branch or a subsidiary, which points to plans for a network of stores.
ICBC was ranked the world’s biggest bank for the fourth year in a row in 2017 by Forbes, with assets of $3.5 trillion and sales of $151.4 billion. It has a presence in 42 countries and employs a total of 462,000 people, and is listed on the Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges.
Its presence in Greece is expected to act as an important lever for growth, not just by boosting Chinese investments, but also for the economy as whole. It is noted that China has invested more than 7 billion euros in Greece already in infrastructure, shipping, energy and real estate.