US investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc is moving closer to gaining full control of its securities business in China after signing an agreement to buy out its local joint venture partner.
The deal will likely make Goldman Sachs the first foreign bank to gain 100 percent ownership of its securities joint venture on the Chinese mainland after China's top securities regulator removed foreign ownership restrictions in April to further open the country's financial services industry to overseas investors.
Under the agreement, Goldman Sachs will boost its current stake of 51 percent to 100 percent in its China securities JV.
A spokeswoman at Goldman Sachs' Beijing office confirmed the agreement on Wednesday. "Goldman Sachs has commenced the formal process of acquiring 100 percent of our China joint venture Goldman Sachs Gao Hua," the spokeswoman told China Daily. "We have signed a definitive agreement with our joint venture partner to acquire all of the outstanding shares in GSGH that we do not own."
Industry experts said the move by Goldman Sachs highlighted foreign investors' bullish view on the Chinese economy and its financial market as the country is expected to be the only major economy to achieve growth this year.
Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, said that Goldman Sachs' move reflected its optimism toward the Chinese market and it is also a positive result of the two-way opening of the Chinese financial industry.
"Greater participation of foreign financial institutions will help create more healthy competition in the Chinese market and raise the quality of the onshore financial services," Dong said.
"One hundred percent ownership of our franchise on the mainland represents a significant commitment to and investment in China," Chief Executive David Solomon, Chief Operating Officer John Waldron and Chief Financial Officer Stephen Scherr were quoted by Wall Street Journal as saying in a memo dated Tuesday.
As the Chinese economy continues to recover from the damages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has moved forward in pushing further opening of its financial services industry.
Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said in October that the regulator will further improve the market environment and foster a fair system to allow domestic and foreign securities and fund management firms to compete with one another.
More foreign banks have accelerated their expansion in the Chinese market. Many have expressed interest to increase investment in China and boost their holdings in China JVs to gain a bigger presence in the nation's securities market including the stock and bond underwriting businesses.
Goldman Sachs said earlier that it would increase its headcount in China to 600 by 2025 as part of its expansion plans.