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China's Tencent wins approval to start banking business

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[December 13, 2014]  SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> has been given approval to start its banking operations, the banking regulator said, making the internet firm the first of five recently approved private banks to open its doors to clients.

The launch of Tencent's private bank marks a gradual opening of China's closely guarded banking sector that is currently dominated by state giants.

As part of broader efforts to channel more loans to the country's cash-starved small businesses, the banking regulator has so far approved the development more than 10 private lenders in Tianjin, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong.

Shenzhen Qianhai Weizhong Bank, funded by Tencent, Shenzhen Baiyeyuan Investment Co. and Shenzhen Liye Group, had a registered capital of 3 billion yuan ($484.93 million), the China Banking and Regulatory Commission said in a statement late on Friday.

Also known as Webank, the lender would focus on loans to individuals as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, the regulator said.

Local business daily Caixin said Webank would officially start its banking operations on Dec. 28.

Prior to the launch of Webank, China Minsheng Bank was the country's sole private lender.

(Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Nick Macfie)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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