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ICBC Shows Strong Support for SMEs

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Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) granted a total of 232.7 billion yuan (US$34.02 billion) in new loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the beginning of the year to February 20 and provided banking services to 1,131 new SME customers in the same period, the country's largest commercial lender said in a statement on Thursday.

ICBC's outstanding loans for SMEs reached 1.9 trillion yuan, according to the lender's statement.

Meanwhile, ICBC has established 14 special service centers for SMEs in various cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong, and plans to open 12 more in the near future.

The central government has asked financial institutions to increase their lending to SMEs that are hard hit by the global economic downturn.

"Financial institutions have to set up special service centers specifically designed to cater to the needs of the SMEs. Our goal is to shorten the time for the approval of an application from SME customers to within 3 hours and a loan to new SME customers to within 3 days," Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said at a press conference on February 26.

(China Daily February 27, 2009)