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Citi CEO commits to China expansion, Beijing says


By Selena Li

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) -Citigroup’s Jane Fraser said the U.S. bank will continue to expand its Chinese business, China’s new financial regulator said, during her first visit to the country since becoming CEO.

As Beijing pushes to attract more foreign capital, the National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA) said that Fraser held a meeting on Monday with its head Li Yunze.

Fraser is the first foreign executive to meet Li since he assumed the role in May of overseeing China’s multi-trillion dollar financial industry, excluding the securities sector.

The NFRA said in a statement on Wednesday that Fraser and accompanying executives said they are “fully confident in China’s economic and financial growth” and Citi “will play to its strength and continue to expand its business in China”.

The CEO also held meetings with Citi staff and clients, which include some of the largest U.S. multinational companies with presence in China, a Citi spokesperson said.

Fraser’s first trip to China since taking up the CEO role in March 2021 follows a visits by JPMorgan’s chief Jamie Dimon last week and by other global financial executives in March.

Most of the CEOs who have visited China this year have been reluctant to publicly express enthusiasm for growing their Chinese business, as they tread a fine line between showing commitment to China and not antagonizing the United States.

International companies are finding it harder to operate as tensions between the U.S. and China have risen. Sequoia said on Tuesday it plans to spin off its Chinese business as part of wider changes at the U.S. venture capital giant.

Citi, which offers corporate and institutional banking, global markets, wealth businesses and other banking services in China, started winding down its retail banking business in the country in December due to a global strategy shift, a move set to impact about 1,200 local staff.

Li told Fraser that China will open up its financial sector further. Citi is in the process of getting approval to set up a securities brokerage in China, having submitted its application in late 2021.

China’s municipal governments and business officials have been trying to attract foreign direct investments through their trips overseas since late last year as they scramble to hit growth and employment targets.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Selena Li in Hong Kong; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Shri Navaratnam and Alexander Smith)

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