HONG KONG, March 26 (Reuters) - China Construction Bank , the country's second-biggest lender, plans to set up branches in eight countries in Europe, South America and Asia this year, three sources with direct knowledge told Reuters on Thursday.
The eight countries are France, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Chile and Malaysia, the three sources within the bank said.
This represents a sizeable expansion in the bank's overseas presence from the current 18 countries and territories.
Chinese state-owned banks have been aggressively expanding their overseas footprints in recent years, partly aiming to facilitate the internationalisation of the Chinese yuan currency.
China Construction Bank set up a branch in London last year and was appointed the yuan clearing bank for the UK in June.
The world's second-largest economy has assigned yuan clearing banks to a total of 14 offshore yuan hubs so far. All the yuan clearing banks are Chinese banks.
China's yuan has broken into the top five as a world payment currency, overtaking the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar, according to SWIFT.
Yuan cross-border trade settlement also climbed to more than 20 percent of China's total trade from 1 percent in 2010. HSBC expects it to rise to over 50 percent by 2020. (Reporting by Michelle Chen and Zhao Hongmei; Editing by James Pomfret and Anand Basu)