KUWAIT May 18 China's biggest bank, Industrial
and Commercial Bank of China, got final approval on
Sunday to open a branch in Kuwait, which wants to free up its
In March, Kuwait said it would allow foreign banks to open
multiple branches to spur growth. Analysts said it was unlikely
that many banks would take advantage of the offer unless the
government accelerated long-postponed infrastructure projects.
Allowing foreign banks to expand in Kuwait will encourage
competition and the development of banking products and
services, governor Mohammad al-Hashel said in a statement on the
central bank website (www.cbk.gov.kw).
He said the central bank had put ICBC in the official
register of foreign banks after it got approval from the Finance
Ministry to open a branch.
ICBC got approvals last year from Kuwait's central bank and
cabinet. It will be the bank's fourth branch in the Gulf Arab
region after Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
ICBC's chairman said earlier this year his bank could be a
"liaison" between Chinese companies and Kuwait, according to a
report on Kuwait's state news agency KUNA. Jiang Jianqing said
he welcomed opportunities for investment in Kuwait's development
plan, KUNA said.
The development plan, first announced in 2010, seeks to
spend billions of dollars on major infrastructure projects such
as roads, a new airport and refinery.
Foreign banks in Kuwait, a major oil exporter, include
regional lenders such as National Bank of Abu Dhabi
and Qatar National Bank, as well as international
heavyweights BNP Paribas, Citigroup and HSBC
International names have been able to operate in the country
since 2004 but, until this year, had only been able to open one
branch. This is ICBC's first branch.
Other restrictions on foreign banks in Kuwait have limited
them to offering investment banking services and banned them
from competing in the retail sector. It is not immediately clear
when these restrictions might be eased.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Alison Williams)