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Middle East and Africa: Best Chinese Bank in the Region for BRI 2020

Bank of China

Not for nothing is Bank of China still widely viewed as the country’s most outward-facing bank. It’s the country’s oldest extant lender and was the first mainland financial institution to boast a branch in the Middle East – a rep office in Bahrain that opened its doors to business back in 2004.

It has since added to its network, opening a branch in the Dubai International Finance Centre, joining the Dubai Commodities Clearing Corporation and becoming a settlement bank – the first Chinese lender to do so.

But what makes the bank really stand out is its ability to reach deep into its pockets when it counts.

Zhao Bo, head of executive office at Bank of China’s Dubai branch, has said that the lender has shifted from a passive to an active strategy in the region, allowing it to “become more actively involved in the broader Middle East business”.

Nowhere is this shift in strategy more clearly seen and felt than in the deal, finalized in April 2020 by the Silk Road Fund, to buy a 49% stake in Acwa Power Renewable Energy Holdings, a Riyadh-based energy firm with projects in five countries along the Belt and Road.

Bank of China and a cohort of other mainland lenders funded the deal, which includes regional renewable-energy projects with a total investment value of $5.7 billion, providing carbon-free power to 1.1 million homes. The Silk Road Fund is a state-owned investment agency that is based in Beijing, and which owns assets and leads projects in dozens of countries along the path of the Belt and Road.

It is yet another sign of the increasing sophistication and clout of Bank of China, and of its desire to help Beijing realize its outbound investment ambitions.

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