Industrial Commercial Bank of China said it was going into the fund management business. Zhang Xingsheng, a senior officer of the bank's research institute, said ICBC had begun preparations last year and was ready to open for business once the government approves the plan. Commercial banks are anxious to develop non-banking businesses ahead of stiffer competition from foreign banks beginning in 2006 under WTO rules. Right now, they are prohibited from investing in the stock market, ruling out products like mutual funds. A proposal to lift that restriction was submitted last month to the State Council by banking and stock market regulators, according to Zhang. Shanghai Securities News says China's fund industry is now worth $36 billion.
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