Major Chinese ag lender sets up Vancouver desk

One of the top agricultural lenders in China and top banks in the world has gone to Vancouver to set up its fifth representative office outside its home country.

Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank) was feted Monday in a formal welcome ceremony at the Vancouver Convention Centre with the lender’s senior vice-president, Chao Gong, and British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark attending.

Running AgBank’s Vancouver representative office is Shi Hao, who 15 years ago was an international student at the University of British Columbia and met Clark in Beijing last November during a provincial trade mission.

AgBank "has a strategic role in agricultural and resource development in China, and British Columbia’s multicultural society and business-friendly environment will help us develop our business in Canada," Shi said in a provincial release Tuesday.

The Vancouver location will be AgBank’s fifth overseas representative office, after New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Sydney. The company also operates full-service branches in Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong, plus a U.K. subsidiary in London.

AgBank got approval last year to open representative offices in both Vancouver and Hanoi, plus a new Dubai subsidiary.

Canada’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), which approved the new Canadian office last month, will also get an application from AgBank to become a Schedule III bank.

Schedule III describes a foreign bank branch of a foreign institution, authorized to do banking business in Canada, within certain restrictions. AgBank’s Canadian head office would then also be in Vancouver, the province said.

AgBank, China’s third-largest lender overall by assets, lends to farmers in its home country mainly through its subsidiary Golden Harvest, which offers working capital loans, credit lines, credit cards, personal business, construction and infrastructure loans, and microcredit.

AgBank was founded by Mao Tse-tung as Agricultural Co-operative Bank in 1951, morphing into a state-owned specialized bank and later a state-controlled commercial bank starting in the late 1970s.

It was restructured into a joint stock limited liability company in 2009, and became publicly traded on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges in 2010. Its initial public offering set the record for the world’s biggest IPO, worth about $22.1 billion.

"Agricultural Bank of China’s commitment to British Columbia is a huge vote of confidence in our long-term stability," Clark said in Tuesday’s release, noting the province is "known around the world as a safe harbour for international investment."

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