S'pore firms 'to buy China bank stake'

The Postal Savings Bank of China is reported to be near an agreement to sell a stake of about 15 per cent to outside investors in a deal worth about US$6.5 billion ($9.3 billion).
The Postal Savings Bank of China is reported to be near an agreement to sell a stake of about 15 per cent to outside investors in a deal worth about US$6.5 billion ($9.3 billion).ST FILE PHOTO

Temasek, DBS reportedly among investors lined up for Postal Savings Bank of China shares

Singapore companies are set to be major players ahead of a planned initial public offering (IPO) by the Postal Savings Bank of China.

The Chinese bank, which has the most outlets of any lender in China, is reported to be near an agreement to sell a stake of about 15 per cent to outside investors in a deal worth about US$6.5 billion (S$9.3 billion).

The potential investors are said to include Singapore investment company Temasek Holdings, DBS Group, UBS Group, International Finance Corporation and JPMorgan Chase, according to Bloomberg.

DBS is said to be buying about US$250 million of shares, while UBS is apparently seeking to invest about US$2.5 billion and may syndicate a significant portion of that stock to other investors.

The deal is said to reflect Chinese President Xi Jinping's move to make state-owned enterprises more market-oriented and globally competitive.

The Beijing-based bank, wholly owned by state-owned China Post Group, aims to work with some of the investors to expand its investment banking, wealth management and micro-finance businesses.

It has yet to finalise the allocation for domestic investors, which include Alibaba Group's financial subsidiary, Zhejiang Ant Small and Micro Financial Services Group, China Life Insurance and Tencent Holdings, sources said.

China Telecom Corporation may also take a stake.

The total allocation could exceed US$7 billion by the time announcements are made next week.

Representatives of UBS, Temasek, DBS and JPMorgan declined to comment.

It is said that some foreign investors are attracted to the Chinese bank because of its relatively clean balance sheet with few legacy bad-loan issues.

The bank may sell shares in an overseas IPO as early as next year, sources said.

The bank, which was set up in its current form in 2007, said it has nearly 490 million individual customers and more than 40,000 branches in China, where its main focus is to service the rural population as well as small and medium- sized businesses.

The Postal Savings Bank of China and DBS agreed in January to set up a joint-venture consumer finance company, with DBS investing 120 million yuan (S$27 million) for a 12 per cent stake.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore firms 'to buy China bank stake''. Print Edition | Subscribe