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ABC listings expected to take one year

AGRICULTURAL Bank of China is expected to spend at least one year preparing for its stock listings on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges, its vice president said today.

The Beijing-based bank, the last among China's Big Four lenders to restructure and list shares publicly, has yet to release a timetable for the stock sales, its vice president Pan Gongsheng said in Beijing.

Pan made the comment at the ceremony marking the official launch of ABC's joint stock company, a key step before the lender introduces strategic investors and seeks public listings.

"Despite the global financial turmoil, many institutions at home and abroad have shown strong interest in ABC," Pan said. Potential investors have approached ABC for possible strategic equity investment but no formal talks have started, he said.

ABC's counterparts – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China and China Construction Bank – have already gone public after receiving a combined US$60 billion government bailout to shed bad loans.

ABC has obtained a capital injection of US$19 billion from Central Huijin, an investment arm of China's sovereign wealth fund, and the central government has helped it shed bad assets worth more than 800 billion yuan (US$117 billion).

After the restructuring, the lender's non-performing loan ratio was 4.34 percent, compared with more than 20 percent previously, while its capital adequacy ratio hit 9 percent, above the regulatory recruitment of 8 percent.

Pan noted that ABC will continue to extend loans to rural and agricultural sectors and take advantage of its vast network in such provinces as Zhejiang and Jiangsu to sustain further growth.

Half of the bank's outlets are located in China's rural areas while 40 percent of its deposits are from county or village level, Pan said.

ABC will also issue its first batch of sub-ordinate bonds worth 20 billion yuan to 30 billion yuan to shore up capital after the week-long Spring Festival holiday, which starts on January 25, according to Pan.


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