UPDATE 2-Norway's DNB to scale back Shanghai bank operation

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OSLO/BEIJING, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Norwegian bank DNB is closing its Shanghai branch and replacing it with a smaller representative office after years of slow business in China, the bank told Reuters on Wednesday.

“Over the past few years DNB’s business in the branch has been very limited, and we expect it will continue to be so in the future,” said Vidar Andersen, who heads the international part of the bank’s corporate banking unit.

The current branch has 15 employees, while the new office will have a staff of three or four, he added.

“On the (Chinese) mainland our strategic objective is limited to Nordic clients, and our product range is not competitive in the domestic market,” Andersen said.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), which supervises the industry, was not immediately available for comment outside of regular working hours.

DNB’s Shanghai office has been a full-service branch since 2006, after setting up a representative office in 1982, according to the bank’s website. DNB expects to hand back its Chinese bank licence in 2021.

“Going back to this set-up will allow us to maintain an active presence in China, including providing a liaison for our clients and establishing strategic partnerships when necessary,” Andersen said.

“We will work closely with our clients to support them in the transition to find an alternative solution for their credit and cash management needs,” he added. (Reporting by Victoria Klesty in Oslo and Cheng Leng in Beijing; Editing by Mark Potter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)