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Bank of China opens Riyadh branch

Bank Of China is only the second Chinese bank to open a branch in Saudi Arabia Reuters/Florence Lo
Bank Of China is only the second Chinese bank to open a branch in Saudi Arabia

Bank of China has opened its first branch in Riyadh with the aim of extending use of the yuan in finance and trade, Chinese and Saudi media reported. 

One of China’s top four state banks, Bank of China opened the branch two years after obtaining approval from Saudi authorities with a staff of 20, most of them local hires, the South China Morning Post said. 

It is only the second Chinese bank to open in Saudi Arabia after Industrial and Commercial Bank of China opened in Riyadh in 2015 and Jeddah in May of this year. 

In a sign of growing commercial ties, a large opening ceremony on September 5 was attended by the Chinese ambassador Chen Weiqing, Bank of China president Liu Jin, Saudi central bank governor Ayman al-Sayari and deputy investment minister Saleh Ali Khabti.

State-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV said the bank’s entry into Saudi Arabia would bolster the yuan’s role in bilateral trade. 

Bank of China is also present in the UAE, Bahrain, Turkey and Qatar. 

The Saudi local government, rural affairs and housing minister met heads of Chinese banks in Beijing last month to encourage them to invest in Saudi infrastructure projects. 

Saudi Arabia’s pivot economically and politically towards China has ramped up over the past year, following the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Riyadh last December. 

President Xi said during the trip China would work to buy oil and gas in yuan, supporting Beijing’s goal to establish its currency internationally and weaken the US dollar’s grip on world trade. 

Last month the Brics bloc of countries invited Saudi Arabia and five other nations to join the group. 

Cooperation between the world’s top oil exporter and the biggest energy consumer has unnerved the United States, Saudi Arabia’s traditional ally.