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October 21, 2009

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Investors keep ICBC stakes

ALLIANZ SE and American Express Co kept their stakes in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China after a lockup period expired yesterday.

The decision by the two key shareholders to retain their stakes, worth a combined US$3.1 billion, indicated that they are optimistic about the outlook for the world's biggest bank by market value.

"We have no current plans to sell the shares," New York-based American Express said. "We will reevaluate the shareholding from depending on market conditions."

Munich-based Allianz said it regards ICBC as a strategic partner and "in case of a potential disposal in the future, Allianz will explore all potential methods of sale that would maximize value and minimize market impact, with a preference for a private sale to investors."

Allianz has 3.22 billion Hong Kong-traded ICBC shares worth HK$19.9 billion (US$2.57 billion), and American Express owns 638 million shares of the bank valued at HK$3.95 billion.

If they sold their shares at the current market price, Allianz would make a profit of US$2 billion and American Express US$400 million. They bought the stakes in April 2006, six months before ICBC's initial public offering, and agreed to hold half of their shares for three years, and the rest for a further six months. Both sold the first half of their investment in April.

"They think the bank can grow even stronger," said Shen Minhua, an analyst at Haitong Securities.


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