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Lender awaits decision on Thai bank offer
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2010-02-09 08:23

Thailand is still assessing an offer by Industrial &Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to buy the government's stake in ACL Bank Pcl, the country's Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said.

The central bank completed a study of the proposal and forwarded its opinions to the finance ministry, Korn said yesterday. ICBC last year offered as much as 18.3 billion baht ($551 million) for a majority stake in Bangkok-based ACL Bank.

ICBC first announced the plan to buy ACL Bank in April 2008 and has been waiting for Thai government approval to purchase more than 49 percent of the lender. Under Thai takeover rules, investors who buy a stake that exceeds 25 percent of a company are required to make an offer for the remaining shares.

The deal would give ICBC a foothold in Thailand after more than $6 billion of acquisitions in Indonesia, Macao, South Africa and Canada over the past two years. It may also help bolster ties between Thailand and China, Korn said yesterday.

"The government gives importance to improving economic cooperation with China," Korn told reporters. "ICBC's offer is in the range that is acceptable, so the price won't be a key factor for the finance ministry in considering its proposal."

Thailand's government in November approved a plan aimed at increasing competition and spurring mergers and acquisitions in the nation's financial industry. The country is shedding stakes in commercial banks it bought during the 1997-98 financial crisis to raise funds as the government's budget deficit swells to a record.

Thailand has 14 commercial banks, including Bangkok Bank Pcl, Siam Commercial Bank Pcl and Kasikornbank Pcl. Foreigners can hold up to 49 percent of a local lender. Stakeholdings above that limit require finance ministry permission.

ICBC Chairman Jiang Jianqing, whose bank has more customers than Russia has people and $241 billion in cash and equivalents, said in an earlier interview that the bank aimed to triple the share of profit coming from overseas to 10 percent.

"We want to become a regional and eventually a global bank to serve the trading needs of customers," Jiang said.

State-backed ICBC's overseas expansion began in December 2006 with the purchase of 90 percent of PT Bank Halim Indonesia. After a government cash injection four years ago, ICBC, which expected to report a 15 percent growth in net profit this year, is now the world's biggest bank by market value and profit.

Source:China Daily 
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