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IFC Buys into Minsheng Bank

The private sector arm of the World Bank, the International Financial Corp.(IFC), had bought 1.08 percent of China's sole private lender, Minsheng Banking Corp., for US$23.1 million, the Chinese lender and a major bank shareholder said Tuesday.

The purchase by the IFC completes a deal initiated in 2003 and could help Minsheng Banking Corp. lure foreign investors ahead of a planned Hong Kong share float this year that could raise US$1 billion.

US private equity firm Newbridge Capital is set to buy 4.82 percent of Minsheng, a move analysts see as an attempt to capitalize on the eventual listing.

IFC bought the stake in Minsheng from private conglomerate Orient Group Inc., run by Chinese tycoon Zhang Hongwei. Orient Group, previously the lender's third-largest shareholder, would become its fourth biggest.

"Legal procedures of the purchase had been completed by July2," Minsheng said in a statement published in the official Shanghai Securities News.

Orient Group had received the entire sum paid by the IFC for its stake by June 30, it said in a separate statement published in the newspaper.

Minsheng and Orient Group had earlier said the IFC would buy a 1.22 to 1.6 percent stake in the Minsheng Banking Corp.

Minsheng is regarded as one of China's healthiest banks, boasting a bad-debt ratio of 1.29 percent, one of the lowest among banks in China.

(Shenzhen Daily July 7, 2004)

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