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Minsheng Bank Plans Float
China Minsheng Banking Corp., the country's only private lender, plans to sell shares in Hong Kong or New York in the first half of next year, aiming to become the second bank on China's mainland to sell shares abroad.

"This is our plan. We still don't have approval for the sale," said Minsheng Vice Chairman Zhang Hongwei.

The Beijing-based lender plans to follow in the footsteps of Bank of China, whose Hong Kong unit had the world's third-biggest initial public offering last year. The float raised US$2.63 billion.

Minsheng hasn't determined how much it wants to raise, Zhang said.

"Bank of China's sale opened the gate for others to offer shares," said Henry Lee, managing director of Hendale Group Ltd., which has about US$80 million under management. Minsheng "could do it earlier. To target 2004 is very conservative," he said.

Minsheng needs to raise funds to help finance a branch expansion that would allow the lender to compete with China's four biggest commercial banks, all owned by the government and each operating thousands of branches from Tibet to Shanghai.

Minsheng employs 4,000 people in 126 branches on China's mainland, according to the company's Website.

In contrast, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the nation's biggest lender, has 28,000 branches and more than 400,000 employees.

Industrial and Commercial Bank President Jiang Jianqing said in November that he expected total deposits to reach 4 trillion yuan at end of 2002.

At the end of September, Minsheng had 161.6 billion yuan (US$19.5 billion) in deposits.

Minsheng has hired A.T. Kearney Inc., a consulting company owned by Electronic Data Systems, to help prepare for the overseas share sale, the Business Post reported, citing Minsheng President Dong Wenbiao.

(eastday.com January 6, 2003)

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