Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the Asian country's largest lender, bought a U.S. unit of Fortis Securities for $1.

ICBC is the world's largest bank by market value and is 70% owned by the Chinese government, The Wall Street Journal said. ICBC bought the unit from France's BNP Paribas (BNPQY).

The unit is small, with 75 existing customers and a balance sheet of $10 billion. ICBC hopes to use the unit as a base to expand its underwriting of securities in the U.S. market, The Wall Street Journal said without naming its sources.

The deal does not make ICBC a primary dealer.

"It's a unique opportunity and a good entry point for ICBC," said Joseph Spillane, former chief executive of Fortis Securities and now CEO of the new ICBC entity, called ICBC Financial Services.

Spillane told The Wall Street Journal that the unit would bring in about $15 million of annual profits for ICBC.

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