ICBC eyes £889m spend to take Hong Kong unit private

City A.M. Reporter
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s most valuable bank, yesterday said it will pay shareholders of its Hong Kong arm a 27 per cent premium to take it private, as part of an effort to expand its presence there.

Each ICBC (Asia) shareholder would receive HK$29.45 (£2.4) per share, ICBC said in a proposal posted on the Hong Kong exchange, an exercise that would cost the bank HK$10.8bn (£889m).

“While ICBC (Asia) is currently trading at its recent high, we believe further growth of the business may be limited by its status as a listed company in Hong Kong,” the banks said in a joint statement. “After ICBC (Asia) has been privatised, it will have much greater flexibility to take advantage of ICBC’s resources as the business continues to develop in the coming years.”

Trade on ICBC (Asia) shares will resume today after being suspended on 27 July, the banks said, adding that the price also represents a 48.7 per cent premium over its 90-day running average.

Goldman Sachs and ICBC International Capital served as joint financial advisers to ICBC, the bank said.

The privatisation will allow ICBC to provide additional capital to the Hong Kong unit, allowing it to compete more effectively against local players such as HSBC and Bank of China (Hong Kong).

Shares of smaller banks in the territory such as Dahsing Bank and Wing Hung Bank have already risen on expectations that they could become potential takeover targets as ICBC moves to expand its presence in Hong Kong.

Such expectations stem from a history of acquiring smaller rivals to grow its business. ICBC (Asia) acquired Fortis Bank Asia HK’s retail and commercial banking operations in 2004, and China Mercantile Bank in 2005.