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Citi sets up new team to help ’emerging’ Chinese companies expand to Singapore

  • Citi's commercial banking unit has set up a China desk in Singapore dedicated to helping "emerging" Chinese companies to expand into the city state and Southeast Asia, the bank told CNBC.
  • Many companies from China have set their eyes on expanding overseas — even as their large home market offers plenty of growth opportunities.
  • Citi said its revenue from supporting client activity and flows from China to Singapore more than doubled in 2020 compared with the previous year.

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Citi's bank branch in the central business district of Singapore on Feb. 12, 2018.Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Citi's commercial banking unit has set up a China desk in Singapore dedicated to helping "emerging" Chinese companies expand into the city-state and Southeast Asia, the bank told CNBC.

Citi Commercial Bank serves growing mid-sized companies with annual revenues of up to $1 billion. Many such companies from China have set their eyes on expanding overseas — even as their large home market offers plenty of growth opportunities.

And Singapore, a business and financial center in Southeast Asia, has emerged as a favored destination among Chinese companies of various sizes. Major Chinese firms that have expanded to Singapore include tech giant Tencent, TikTok-owner ByteDance and video-streaming platform iQiyi.

"Singapore and the broader ASEAN region are key markets for growth for expanding Chinese emerging corporates. A majority of these clients set up holding companies in Singapore for their ASEAN units," said Lin Hsiu-Yi, ASEAN and Singapore head at Citi Commercial Bank.

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ASEAN refers to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an economic bloc comprising 10 countries in the region including Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

The new China desk is headed by Mona Zhang, a banker who previously focused on mid-sized companies at Citi Commercial Bank's office in China. Citi Commercial Bank's other China-focused desks are in Hong Kong and India.

Singapore's appeal

Singapore has for years attracted global companies looking for a base to conduct business in Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to Chinese companies, businesses that have recently announced expansion plans in Singapore include U.S. semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries and German biotechnology firm BioNTech.

Over the last few years, U.S.-China tensions and Beijing's tightening grip on Hong Kong — also a major business and financial hub — added to Singapore's appeal as a stable location to do business.

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