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By Selena Li
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Barclays is seeking a Chinese banking partner to set up an asset management joint venture in the country, two people with knowledge of the matter said, as part of British lender's plans to expand its footprint in the world's second-largest economy.
Barclays' majority-owned China asset management venture will be set up via its unit Barclays Investment Managers (BIM), which currently has operations in Europe and Japan, the people said.
If successful, Barclays will join a string of other Western financial firms who have started or are in the process of launching operations in China's lucrative $4.3 trillion bank-dominated asset management market.
The China expansion plan also comes as Barclays is gradually expanding its presence in Asia, reversing a pullback from the region six years ago when it exited its cash equities business and sold its Singapore and Hong Kong wealth management units.
The London-headquartered bank recently hired Cherry Zhu in Shanghai to build out BIM's business in China, a third source said.
Zhu, previously a Singapore-based sales director at Northern Trust Asset Management, according to her LinkedIn profile, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The sources could not be named as they were not authorised to speak to media.
Barclays declined to comment specifically on Reuters' query about its plan for a China asset management joint venture, but said it has been expanding its presence in the country.
"The bank has been strengthening our cross-border corporate and investment bank platform in China, growing in a phased and measured approach," a bank spokesperson said in a statement.
China in 2019 allowed foreign companies to set up majority-owned asset management JVs with local banks' wealth units, giving Western firms more access to its massive financial sector.
Goldman Sachs and BlackRock began operating China asset management JVs established with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank last month and in May 2021, respectively.
Europe's largest asset manager Amundi has garnered more than $11 billion of assets from Chinese investors since it became the first foreign-controlled JV to launch operations there in September 2020.
Barclays ran $9.9 billion in retail funds assets as of end-June across more than 110 funds managed by its wealth and investment management units, according to Morningstar data.
BIM's products, however, are mainly aimed at institutional investors, according to the company website.
The China plans come as Barclays, Britain's third-biggest bank by market value, undertakes a broader rebuild of its presence in Asia.
In May, Barclays nearly doubled its stake in Barrenjoey Capital Partners to help expand the Australia-based boutique investment bank's business.
The lender in January this year injected $105 million of operational capital to its Shanghai banking branch, business registration records show, up from a previous $75 million increase.
The bank is also beefing up its corporate and investment bank capabilities in China as it bets on a growing need for Chinese clients to tap global capital markets and gain access to cross-border advisory services, the second source said.
Barclays declined to comment on Shanghai capital injection, as well as its markets and cross-border advisory services expansion plans.
In its latest annual report, Barclays said that China was one of the international markets where it aims to expand its corporate and investment banking business presence, along with the Middle East.
(Reporting by Selena Li; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Jamie Freed)