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Agricultural Bank of China Approved for Rural Banking Units

The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) has received approval from industry regulators to set up township banking units in the north Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the central Hubei Province.

Zhang Yun, the bank's vice president, said on Wednesday the new units would start operation soon. In addition, the lender also planned to acquire stakes in rural financial leasing firms and rural insurance companies.

In the next three years, ABC planned to get 80,000 to 100,000 small- and medium-sized corporate clients and expand its service network coverage to half the nation's 250 million rural households.

"The move to set up rural financial institutions is part of our efforts to expand service coverage in rural areas," Zhang said. He added ABC would actively hold stakes in more rural banking institutions as it aimed to become a leading commercial bank to serve agricultural economies in 10 years.

The bank said in a statement that between January and June, it extended loans of 88.1 billion yuan (US$12.9 billion) to the agricultural sector, 40 percent of the total loans it made in the first half.

Ranking 65th among the world's top 1,000 banks, ABC currently operates 24,200 outlets on the Chinese mainland.

(Xinhua News Agency July 30, 2008)

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