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Minsheng to reveal listing plan soon
( 2003-12-09 09:47) (Agencies)

Sole Chinese private lender Minsheng Bank unveiled a proposed revision to its constitution yesterday to add a plan for a Hong Kong listing, which would make it the first mainland lender to debut overseas.

Market and bank sources had said that fast-growing Minsheng Banking Corp, which floated on local bourses in 2000, would reveal plans for a listing in Hong Kong this week.

Executives have said the bank, which boasts the lowest bad debt ratio in China's creaky banking sector, would seek a Hong Kong or New York share offering in 2004 to raise about US$1 billion.

The Beijing-based bank issued a notice yesterday revising its constitution to include a share offering in Hong Kong but left blanks for details such as timeframe and pricing.

"There is indeed a plan to announce an upcoming Hong Kong offering, but we can't reveal more at this stage," an executive at the bank's Beijing headquarters said. "A shareholders' meeting will be held 30 days after the announcement."

Beijing has encouraged its banks to list, eager to help local players prepare to fight foreign rivals after the market is liberalized.

Bank of China has listed Hong Kong arm BOC (Hong Kong).

Founded in 1996 and headed by animal feed entrepreneur Liu Yonghao, Minsheng is better regarded than many of its rivals.

Minsheng, one of China's smallest but most ambitious lenders, posted 81 per cent growth in third-quarter net profit and is set to meet a 40 per cent full-year earnings growth target. Its non-performing loans stood at 1.62 billion yuan (US$196 million) or 0.84 per cent of total outstanding loans at the end of September.

The bank, in which World Bank private sector financing arm International Finance Corp owns 1.6 per cent, sold domestic A shares in 2000, raising 4.1 billion yuan (US$495 million).

A new share issue could encounter resistance from existing shareholders, however, because it could dilute their stakes. Also Hong Kong shares trade at an average of 14-15 times earnings per share, lower than the mainland's 30-40 times, which could exert pressure on the mainland counter.

ZTE Corp, a Shenzhen-based telecoms gear maker, called off a US$450 million Hong Kong share sale due to the objections of existing mainland shareholders who feared dilution of their holdings. It had originally planned to list in 2002.

The bank's yuan-denominated A shares are now priced at about 24 times projected earnings, in line with rivals such as China Merchants Bank.

"Investors' negative response could be overdone. The price gap is always present in dual-listed stocks, and Minsheng is no exception. In a longer term, a Hong Kong listing is good news," Xu said.

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