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China: Citi makes a China comeback

US bank gets secondary market nod; Still lacks crucial underwriting licence

Citi has been granted approval to act as a market-maker on China’s interbank bond market, the bank announced on August 12. That makes it only the second firm to be granted such a licence, after JPMorgan. The bank was already active in secondary trading in China but Citi said the new licence enabled it to "broaden its access to different types of renminbi fixed-income products, and expand on its commitment to providing active price quoting and market liquidity, innovative product development, and professional trading practices".

Having been one of the leading foreign firms in China in the late 1990s and early this decade, with top executives bringing in a string of mandates from the state-owned sector, Citi slipped somewhat after 2004, dismissing key rainmaker Margaret Ren and then losing her replacement, Wei Christianson, to Morgan Stanley in 2006. It still lacks the licences required to underwrite onshore bonds and shares but has made progress in commercial banking through taking control of Guangdong Development Bank in November 2006. It has also been active in the secondary market, says Paulus Mok, head of markets and country treasurer at Citi China.

Active player
"The interbank market in China is relatively deep and broad compared with the exchange-traded markets, and Citi was among the most active foreign banks by volume in the interbank space in 2008," Mok says.

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