KARACHI: Habib Bank Limited on Monday announced it had received a licence to open a branch in China, a move that would make it the first South Asian lender to operate in the world’s number two economy.

HBL said it would open a branch in Urumqi, the largest city in the province of Xinjiang, which lies along the traditional Silk Route and borders Pakistan.

“Habib Bank Limited is the first South Asian bank to get this permission,” a bank statement said, without setting a precise timeframe for opening.

The programme is closely linked to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a $46 billion development project, which will connect Gwadar port to Xinjiang.

Hamza Kamal, an investment analyst at Shajar Capital, said: “The bank could capitalise over the growing inv­es­tment and trade activities between the two countries as it has already developed its reputation with the Chinese business and trade sector.”

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