China Approves Citibank-led Consortium’s buy-into Guangdong Development Bank

by Mark Cassidy September 18 2006, 23:48

China’s approval of the Citibank consortium’s buy-into Guangdong Development Bank ends a year-and-a-half battle for control of the bank. [1]

The Citigroup consortium, which includes China’s largest insurance company and one of China’s largest electricity distributors, offered approximately three billion dollars for an eighty five percent stake in Guangdong Bank. [2]

The Citibank consortium beat out its closest rival a consortium led by France’s Societe Generale. [3] U.S. based, private investment firm, The Carlyle Group, pulled out of the bidding. [4] Despite a last minute attempt to get back into the race, Ping An Insurance's bid was hobbled when they tried to make large donations to the Guangdong provincial government a portion of their bid. [5]

Despite their leadership position in the consortium, Citibank will only take a 19.9 percent stake in Guangdong Development Bank, as Chinese law currently forbid a single foreign bank from owning more than 20 percent of a Chinese bank. [6] Both Citibank and Societe Generale lobbied the Chinese government to make an exception to the limitations on foreign ownership of Chinese bank to no avail. [7]

China’s entry into the World Trade Organization was conditioned in part on it opening its banking sector to foreign competition. [8] Nevertheless, China has been putting up obstacles to foreign banks that want to set up shop in China. [9] By allowing the Citibank led buy-in to go forward, China seems to be taking a somewhat less protectionist approach.  While Chinese companies will still be for the most part own Guangdong Development Bank, Citibank’s 19.9 percent share allows the bank to receive the benefits of being part of a large, well-financed, and experienced banking organization.

[1] Citibank beats out Scoiete Genrale for China's Guangdong Development Bank, Todayonline.com, Sept. 13, 2006, http://www.todayonline.com/articles/14210.asp.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] China cabinet backs Citibank-led plan to take over Guangdong Devt Bank – UPDATE, Forbes.com, Sept. 12, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2006/09/12/afx3009761.html.

[5] China’s Ping re-enters bidding for Guangdong Development Bank- source, Forbes.com, Sept. 5, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2006/09/05/afx2992079.html.

[6] Citibank beats out Societe Generale for China’s Guangdong Development Bank, supra, note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] David Lague, China tries to limit access for foreign banks, iht.com, Sept. 5, 2006, http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/09/05/business/chibank.php.

[9] Id.

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