Mind the gap – Standard Chartered steps up with US$20 billion pledge for Belt and Road projects


Standard Chartered will offer at least US$20 billion in financing by 2020 to facilitate projects part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the bank said on Friday, South China Morning post has published.

The announcement is the latest step by a major foreign bank to help close the funding gap for the initiative, which represents President Xi Jinping’s vision for infrastructure-led trade.

China has pledged to invest at least 780 billion yuan (US$113 billion) through its state funds and banks to finance projects part of the initiative, which hopes to deliver hundreds of infrastructure projects to grow trade by rail, road and sea in more than 60 countries. But market watchers said more capital from other multilateral lenders and the private sector was needed for the plan.

Standard Chartered said it was “one of very few truly global banks” that could facilitate trade, capital and investment flows across Belt and Road markets.

The bank will support its Chinese clients along the Belt and Road routes and help its destination market clients seize opportunities resulting from the initiative.

Standard Chartered will provide financial services including lending, transaction banking, capital markets and project finance activities as part of its commitment. This year, it has already been involved in more than 50 deals related to the initiative.

Analysts said foreign banks – niche players in China’s banking market – can leverage their advantage in overseas networks and experience when teaming up with Chinese companies or banking counterparts to back China’s “go abroad” ambition.

“While China has pledged further financing opening, we expect more foreign banks to have stronger confidence to join in major economic cooperation plans like the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Zhang Xingrong, the managing director at the Bank of China’s Institute of International Finance in Beijing.

In return, overseas business could facilitate deeper involvement with China’s domestic businesses by forging close relationships with Chinese companies through overseas projects, he said.

Standard Chartered made the pledge during the two-day 9th UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue, which started in Beijing on Friday. The dialogue focuses on a range of partnership targets such as trade, infrastructure and financial services cooperation between the two countries.