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ABC share listing to take a year

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

The Beijing-based bank, the last of China's Big Four lenders to restructure and list shares, has yet to form a timetable for the stock sales, 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 strategic equity investment but no formal talks have started, he said.

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

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 dispose of 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 minimum requirement of 8 percent.

Pan noted 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.

The ABC will also issue subordinate bonds worth between 20 billion and 30 billion yuan to shore up capital after the week-long Spring Festival holiday, Pan said.


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