Bank of China and ICBC, two major banks in China, have received approval from Greek banking authorities to set up branches in the country.
Bank of Greece, the central bank of Greece, has announced that it has informed the Development Ministry on the establishment of a branch of Bank of China. Additionally, the central bank has given approval to ICBC to set up a representative office in Greece.
The two Chinese banks are expected to tap into the growing demand for ship finance in Greece, which owns the world’s largest merchant fleet.
Chinese ship financing, especially leasing, has increasingly become an important financing source for Greek shipowners.
Jerry Kalogiratos, CEO of Greek owner Capital Product Partners, said at Marine Money’s event in Shanghai earlier this year that he had seen Chinese financial leasing grow substantially in the past three to four years, trumping old expensive financing structures with something more flexible and with more competitive terms.
China and Greece have forged closer ties in shipping in recent years, with Cosco’s involvement in the Port of Piraeus a sign of China’s commitment to the Greek market. The Chinese government has also established a special fund to assist Greek shipowners in financing vessels built in Chinese yards.
The latest annual survey from Greece’s Petrofin Bank Research shows that ship financing is at its lowest level since the global financial crisis of 2008. The report went on to cite the continued rise of Chinese leasing companies.
ICBC Leasing, the financial leasing unit of ICBC, is the largest ship financial leasing company in the world, owning a fleet of more than 300 ships.