HBL’s President & CEO hails China’s decision on promoting foreign investments

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“China’s move to promote foreign investments will encourage international companies to invest in advanced and high-tech manufacturing. This has been widely appreciated globally,” said Muhammad Aurangzeb, President & CEO – HBL, the largest bank in Pakistan.

China released the 2022 catalog of industries for encouraging foreign investments in late October, a move perceived as part of its efforts to attract more foreign investments and expand high-end manufacturing.

“This is in continuation to the opportunities that were provided to the financial service sector and has been given to the high-end manufacturing and technology sectors as well. The new world is all around technology, so to me, the announcement at this time makes perfect sense,” said the President & CEO – HBL.

HBL has been expanding its business in the Chinese market and in the last two years, it has gained momentum, especially with the opening of the HBL Beijing Branch in March 2021.

“China is the lynchpin of HBL’s international strategy. We strive to provide convenient services for Chinese clients, through our branches in China and the regional network that covers multiple jurisdictions,” cited the President & CEO – HBL.

Cheng Wei, Beijing’s Branch Manager & Country Manager – HBL, told China Economic Net that Beijing Branch, since its opening, has supported Chinese-funded enterprises to carry out investments and trade activities in Pakistan and countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Through its domestic and overseas network, HBL has provided guarantees, letters of credit, working capital loans, foreign exchange transactions, and other banking products and services for the cross-border business of Chinese enterprises, especially those involved in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“The Bank is also the largest executor of CPEC-related financing in Pakistan worth over USD 6 billion,” the President & CEO – HBL stated.

He further added, “The first phase of the CPEC project has laid down the infrastructure needed for economic development. We will take advantage of it and continue to support Chinese investments in phase II, which is about industrialization and focused more on the trade side.”

In its efforts to participate in and support the second phase of CPEC, HBL signed a cooperation agreement with China Road and Bridge in 2021 to provide all-round financial services for the Rashakai Special Economic Zone.

As bilateral trade between China and Pakistan has continued to grow in recent years, HBL is leveraging the Beijing Branch to expand RMB-denominated trade settlement services. According to the President & CEO – HBL, the amount of RMB-denominated trade settlements by HBL accounts for more than 15 percent of the total, up from 3 percent in 2018.

“It should really be much higher, and some of the circumstances help accelerate the pace. For example, the differential now between Libor and Shibor will give impetus and incentive. There is a real advantage for importers and exporters in Pakistan to use RMB as the settlement currency,” the President & CEO – HBL said.

Going forward, HBL is determined to realize digital transformation to usher in more cooperation opportunities with Chinese enterprises.

“We have studied closely what the Chinese banks are doing in their digital journeys. We have learned from them and are trying to emulate them,” said the President & CEO – HBL.

HBL’s performance in the third quarter this year hit a record high in the Bank’s corporate history, with a client base of over 32 million at the end of September 2022, up from 12 million in 2018.