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Bank of China IPO could take place in 2005
Updated: 2005-08-12 17:16

A top Bank of China executive confirmed Friday that talks are underway with several foreign parties keen to buy a stake in the bank, one of China's four big state commercial lenders, but declined to give details, the Associated Press reported.

Executive vice president and managing director Zhang Yanling also said the bank's planned initial public offering in Hong Kong could take place as early as the end of this year if market conditions are positive.

"Maybe at the end of this year or early next year. We haven't decided yet, it depends on the market," she told reporters on the sidelines of a Malaysia-China business forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when asked about the proposed listing.

"If we want to enlarge our business, IPO is a good way," she said.

A major Chinese financial magazine has reported that Bank of China is considering selling stakes that would total nearly a quarter, or $6 billion, of its equity.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Singapore's Temasek Holdings will each take a 9.9 percent stake, while UBS and the Asian Development Bank will together hold 5 percent equity, Caijing magazine reported Monday.

Combined, the stakes would be close to the maximum total of 25 percent allowed to foreign investors in any single state bank.

Asked if UBS AG was one of the interested parties, Zhang said: "Maybe, so many foreign investors have shown interest."

Foreign lenders have been eager to gain footholds in the Chinese market as they gear up for a full opening of the country's banking industry next year.

UBS has in June said it might invest about $500 million in a strategic stake in Bank of China, which has been seeking foreign partners to help restructure and improve its competitiveness.

Zhang said Bank of China sees many opportunities in Southeast Asia, especially in the area of trade financing, international settlement for exports and imports, and remittances.

She said the bank is already operating in most countries in the region, with Singapore being its biggest market with 40 branches. In Malaysia where it has only one branch, she said, there are plans to expand its network but didn't elaborate.

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