Monday, March 13, 2006

RBC Consortium to Set Up Chinese Fund Joint Venture

Shanghai (Reuters) - A consortium including Royal Bank of Canada plans to apply this month for regulatory approval to launch a Chinese funds management joint venture, sources familiar with the move told Reuters on Monday.

The consortium, which also includes China's Minsheng Banking Corp. and the country's top electricity grid operator, State Grid Corp., aims to launch the business by May, the sources said.

Minsheng, China's first private lender, would own more than 50 percent of the joint venture, which will be based in Shanghai, while Royal Bank of Canada and State Grid Corp. would share the remaining stake, they said.

Once approved, the joint venture will be allowed to sell fund products with investments focused on China's stock and money markets to domestic investors, allowing RBC to tap some of the country's $1.7 trillion in personal savings.

"Talks with RBC have gone smoothly. They are eager to participate in China's funds market as soon as they can," said one senior source close to Minsheng, the second-largest Shanghai-listed lender.

The venture would have initial registered capital of up to 200 million yuan ($24.8 million), the sources said.

"We expect to launch the fund venture in Shanghai in April or May," said another source close to the potential deal.

RBC, Canada's largest bank, was not immediately available for comment.

Foreign financial firms are increasingly trying to expand in China to capture new growth opportunities. RBC rival Bank of Montreal set up its Shanghai-based fund management joint venture at least three years ago.

China's $60 billion asset management industry -- now populated by likes of ING Group , Societe Generale and Allianz A.G. -- has swelled from zero just six years ago.