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Report: Citigroup bids US$3b for China bank
Updated: 2005-12-31 06:46

A consortium led by Citigroup Inc. has bid US$3 billion for a stake in China's Guangdong Development Bank, a Chinese magazine reported Friday.

If accepted, the offer would be one of the biggest foreign acquisitions in China ever.

The mid-sized Chinese lender, based in the southern province of Guangdong, is mulling bids from three contenders, including Citigroup, France's Societe Generale SA and Ping An Insurance (Group) Co., Caijing, a Chinese-language financial magazine said in a report posted on its Web site.

Citigroup's spokeswoman in Shanghai, Marine Mao, said the bank would not comment.

"We have nothing to release about this at the moment," said Ai Liqun, Guangdong Development Bank's spokeswoman.

Caijing said top Guangdong provincial officials were considering the offers and that Citigroup had recently raised its bid from an original offer of $2.85 billion.

The bid is for an 85 percent stake in the bank, which reportedly is being allowed to sell off a larger share of its equity than usual because of its urgent need for capital and its large burden of bad loans. China usually limits investments by a single foreign institution in a state-run bank to less than 20 percent, with total foreign investment capped at 25 percent.

Guangdong provincial officials refused comment, though they acknowledged that the government was involved in the bank's restructuring.

According to the Caijing report, Societe Generale teamed up with China Huawen Enterprises Development Corp. to make a $2.9 billion bid, while Ping An Insurance's offer was $2.8 billion. Dutch bank ABN Amro, earlier reported to be bidding, has withdrawn, it said.

The group led by Citigroup also reportedly includes state-owned commodities giant China National Cereals, Oils & Foodstuffs Corp. The Caijing article did not name others participating, saying only that they were state-owned companies.

The final three bids were outlined Wednesday by Li Chunhong, deputy secretary general of the Guangdong provincial government, who is also part of the team working on the local bank's restructuring, the report said.

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