Merrill Lynch will become the first foreign institution to list a mutual fund on China's exchanges, as it begins selling its latest investment product to domestic investors this week, Reuters reports.

The New York-based giant's joint venture with BOC International Investment Managers started selling its first fund on Nov. 18 and will be listed on the southern Shenzhen exchange in the first quarter of 2005. The offering is only the nation's second listed open-ended fund. BOC International Holdings, the investment Bank of China, owns 67% of the venture, while BOC and Merrill each own 16.7%.

Merrill set up its mainland venture in July in an attempt to tap the $1.3 trillion in personal savings by Chinese investors facing the country's collapsing welfare system. Investors can either trade listed open-ended funds like regular stocks or redeem cash as with a traditional mutual fund.

China's fledgling fund business is poised to explode as more than 90 billion yuan has been raised through funds in the first six months, pegging total domestic assets under management at $25 billion. In addition to Merrill's recent entry, this has attracted a number of foreign firms, including American International Group, ING, Societe Generale and Allianz.

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