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ICBC setting up $1.1 bln Europe fund to tap new overseas markets: Reuters

The Asia unit of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd is setting up a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) fund to invest in central and eastern European countries under its “One Belt, One Road” strategy.

Central and Eastern Europe represents a key part of China’s strategy to carve out new overseas export markets between Asia and Europe for its companies as the domestic economy slows.

The fund proposal was floated by China’s Premier Li Keqiang last November. It will play a key part of China’s modern Silk Road strategy to expand the country’s economic and political influence in a region seen as a gateway to the European Union.

ICBC said in a statement late on Tuesday that ICBC Asia, a unit of China’s biggest bank, will set up Sino-CEE Financial Holding Corporation in Hong Kong, which will float funds and overseas units later.

CEE Financial will target investments in “inter-connection projects and other infrastructure and international capacity cooperation projects” in central and eastern European countries, the bank said.

These investments are expected to generate “reasonable investment returns” for ICBC and will help the bank’s overseas growth and expansion into central and eastern European countries and other markets, it said.

Separately, ICBC announced the appointment of Yi Huiman a chairman of its board. Huiman, who is currently the bank’s vice chairman, will take over from Jiang Jianqing, who is retiring after leading the Chinese lender for 16 years.