Chinese banking giant ICBC said on Friday it has agreed to pay $600 million for an 80 percent stake in the Argentina operations of South Africa's Standard Bank, continuing its push into overseas markets.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and other Chinese banks have been aggressively expanding abroad, buying stakes in other lenders or setting up branches, to serve Chinese companies that are increasingly active globally.
ICBC chairman Jiang Jianqing said the deal -- which is still subject to regulatory approval -- was "of great strategic significance" for China's biggest lender and would strengthen its network in Latin America.
"The acquisition ... will enable ICBC to obtain a commercial banking licence in Argentina and to be the first Chinese financial institution to enter the local market," Jiang said in a statement.
ICBC has accelerated its overseas expansion since the global financial crisis, opening new branches or buying stakes in banks in Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Latin America.
ICBC, which employs 386,000 people worldwide and has more than 260 million customers, now has more than 200 branches outside mainland China and more than 16,000 in the country, according to the statement and its website.
The acquisition of Standard Bank Argentina SA will give ICBC access to 103 branches across the country, where Chinese companies have been investing heavily in the mining and manufacturing industries.