CHINA / National

Biggest bank gets approval for IPO
Updated: 2006-07-19 09:00

China's biggest state-owned commercial bank has received approval for an initial public offering, the country's top bank regulator said Tuesday, following reports the deal could raise up to US$14 billion (euro11.17 billion).

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China's IPO "has been officially approved," said Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, in comments on the agency Web site. It didn't say when or where the IPO would take place or how much it would raise.

Earlier reports said ICBC wants to raise as much as $14 billion with a simultaneous offering on stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Chinese newspapers, citing unidentified sources, said plans call for shares to start trading in Hong Kong on Oct. 27.

ICBC's Beijing headquarters and the CBRC press office confirmed that the IPO had been approved but said they could give no additional details.

With a successful listing, ICBC would join other Chinese state-owned banks that have raised billions of dollars from global investors in a massive industry overhaul as Beijing prepares to open the banking market to foreign competitors under World Trade Organization commitments.

Bank of China, the country's No. 2 lender, raised $11.2 billion in May with an IPO in Hong Kong that was the fourth-largest ever in the world. No. 3 China Construction Bank raised $8 billion in October, the world's biggest IPO last year.

ICBC had assets of 6.5 trillion yuan ($800 billion) as of the end of 2005.

Plans for an IPO by the remaining member of the "big four" state-owned commercial banks, Agricultural Bank of China, have been delayed due to the bank's unusually large amount of bad loans.

The government has given its banks tens of billions of dollars (euros) to replenish reserves and meet minimum capital requirements in an effort to turn them into independent, profit-driven competitors.

ICBC received $15 billion from the government in April, 2005, while two other banks also each received $22.5 billion. The bank also has received commitments worth about $6 billion from outside investors.

Last month, China's social security fund agreed to invest more than 18 billion Chinese yuan ($2.25 billion) in the bank.

That came after a foreign investment group linking Goldman Sachs Group Inc., American Express Co. and Germany's Allianz AG agreed in January to invest $3.78 billion in the bank.