Chinese banking giant ICBC plans UK infrastructure push

Pedestrians walk past a branch of China's banking giant Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in Shanghai on January 18, 2011

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The bank started plans for a UK infrastructure business about a year ago, according to Clive Carpenter, who joined in October to lead a new project and infrastructure finance unit in the bank’s City of London branch.

Carpenter’s career of some 30 years in project finance has seen him hold top roles at Deutsche Bank and CIC. He also lead the project finance team at Natixis in London before joining the Nationwide Building Society as a senior lending manager in its project finance unit. Since 2012 he has been an independent consultant.

Carpenter described ICBC’s new business line as “a natural development for the bank as it seeks to expand its lending activities into an area where many of its existing key clients are already active”.

ICBC’s goal is for the London team to make a name for itself through senior lending to infrastructure projects – a market that has been busy for the bank elsewhere in the world including the US, but not the UK.

Although Carpenter is the only person working on the initiative at present, the plan is to grow the team as the business develops. And while the unit won’t only focus on projects with a Chinese element, Carpenter acknowledged that such transactions will be a key target: “For any large infrastructure assets on the block, there’s likely to be a Chinese bidder.”

At a speech earlier in October, Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, said that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June has “certainly not dampened the enthusiasm” of Chinese companies to invest in the country.

Xiaoming described the UK’s planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, with the involvement of China General Nuclear, as “a golden fruit for a golden era”. He added that he saw opportunities for more co-operation between the countries on infrastructure projects.

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