International

As European Lenders Retreat, Chinese Banks Step In

The movement by European firms away from owning, operating and committing capital to certain regions globally has left a vacuum of sorts that is being filled by Chinese banks, Reuters reported on Tuesday (May 24).

Barclays Deputy Chairman Gerry Grimstone told the newswire that the biggest Chinese lenders may balk a bit about buying assets outright but may indeed be gunning to scale and size to rival the well-entrenched players in the United States and beyond. The remarks came from Grimstone, as Reuters reported, as he stood on the sidelines of a financial forum being held in London on Tuesday.

The executive did not, in fact, tell Reuters whether banks, such as ICBC and Bank of China, were or are bidding for Barclays’ Africa business. That unit, as has been widely reported, is being sold by Barclays as the banking giant moves to leave more than two dozen markets globally.

During the interview, Grimstone posited that Chinese banks remain interested “in everything. We've embarked on a journey there [Africa]. We've had a very successful capital markets transaction. We are continuing with that journey. That's all I have to say."

Beyond those comments and speaking at a China business school event that was also held in London, Grimstone said he had held conversations with senior staff at some of the largest Chinese banks and had gotten a sense for what Reuters termed the “scale of the ambitions” of those banks.

"European banks, driven by regulatory pressures and capital constraints, are simplifying their operations, leaving a natural space. It’s not a one-for-one trade, but Chinese banks will take up the slack," said Grimstone in his remarks. "A major Chinese bank's chairman told me recently that they would become like HSBC. I'm sure that's true."

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