Santander gets approval for Chinese car finance venture

Spain's Santander has received Chinese regulatory approval to operate as an independent car financing company, one of the first foreign banks to get a car finance license in the world's largest auto market.

Santander will operate through its Fortune joint venture, set up in December 2011, in a 50-50 tie-up between its consumer finance unit and China's seventh biggest car manufacturer, Jianghuai Auto (JAC) <600418.SS>, the bank said on Sunday.

Fortune Auto Finance will have initial capital of 500 million yuan ($80.4 million). Its loans will not be restricted to JAC's products.

China is the world's largest market for cars, with an estimated 19 million cars sold in 2012, compared to around 14 million in the United States, and double-digit growth expected to continue in coming years.

($1 = 6.2161 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Paul Day and Catherine Evans)