LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese banks are moving to fill the gap left by European lenders retreating from areas of investment and retail banking worldwide, Barclays' deputy chairman Gerry Grimstone said on Tuesday.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a China financial forum in London, Grimstone said that major Chinese lenders would be cautious about buying assets outright but were optimistic about becoming as powerful as their U.S. and European peers.
He declined to say whether banks like ICBC, Bank of China or China Construction Bank were bidding for Barclays' Africa business, which the UK bank is selling as part of a withdrawal from 26 markets worldwide.
"(Chinese banks) are interested in everything," he said. "We've embarked on a journey there (in Africa). We've had a very successful capital markets transaction. We are continuing with that journey. That's all I have to say."
Speaking in a personal capacity at a China business school (CEIBS) event in London, he cited conversations with senior staff at some of China's biggest banks as evidence for the scale of the ambitions of the country's big state-controlled banks.
"European banks, driven by regulatory pressures and capital constraints, are simplifying their operations, leaving a natural space. Its not a 1-for-1 trade but Chinese banks will take up the slack," he said.
"A major Chinese bank's chairman told me recently that they would become like HSBC. I'm sure that's true."
Writing by Patrick Graham; Editing by Alexandra Hudson