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ABC says no clear listing plans yet
Updated: 2009-03-18 11:43

Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) said on Wednesday it does not yet have any clear plans to go public and has not begun talks with any investors who might take a strategic stake before its listing.

ABC, which is the last of China's major State lenders to undergo restructuring into a commercially oriented bank, posted the statement on its website in response to what it called market rumors.

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The bank reiterated that, in its current shareholding structure, the Ministry of Finance and Central Huijin, a domestic investment arm of China's sovereign wealth fund, each have equal stakes worth 50 percent.

Bringing a foreign strategic investor on board before moving to a public listing was a model used by China's other three State-owned banks as they underwent reform.

But it is not clear whether the same pattern will apply to ABC, the last unlisted member of the nation's big four banks, as the financial crisis has taken a heavy toll on financial institutions around the world.

Sources familiar with the matter have said that Chinese authorities were annoyed that cash-strapped strategic investors Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of America dumped shares in Bank of China and China Construction Bank as soon as lockup provisions expired earlier this year.

"I think the Chinese were slightly miffed that it happened when markets are weak," one banking source said.

Finding strategic investors for ABC would present a major challenge given the distress of global banks and their focus on core operations. 

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