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China: Micro is big

In a signing ceremony witnessed by UK prime minister Gordon Brown and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, Standard Chartered Bank agreed on January 18 to provide credit to a microfinance organization in China. It is the first time an international bank has backed such a project in China. The bank is to supply an initial Rmb20 million ($2.76 million) to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) to support farmers and small business owners. Microfinance initiatives are seen as key tools in the fight against poverty. Providers of microcredit in poor areas get help in reducing their operating costs; the investment banks benefit from being attached to these PR-friendly projects and often make decent returns on their investments. Standard Chartered is no idle investor: in return for its expertise and reach the bank expects CFPA’s assistance to expand its business in rural China.

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