UPDATE 1-Ex-Merrill banker heads China nuclear fund -sources

Mon Jul 6, 2009 3:46am EDT

* Feng left Merrill as China investment banking head

* Now, general manager of $1.46 billion nuclear power fund

* Fund wins cabinet nod and backed by Guangdong government (Adds Feng's background, details about the fund)

By George Chen

HONG KONG, July 6 (Reuters) - Wilson Feng, a former senior banker for Merrill Lynch, has been picked to run China's newly established $1.46 billion nuclear investment fund, two sources briefed on Feng's new job said on Monday.

In April, state-owned Guangdong Nuclear Power Group announced the establishment of the 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) China Nuclear Power and New Energy Industry Investment Fund -- the first such specialist fund approved by the cabinet.

Feng, former head of China investment banking for Merrill Lynch, now part of the combined Bank of America-Merrill Lynch (BAC.N), has been officially appointed as general manager of the fund, said the sources who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

"Feng has long-time experience and expertise in mergers and acquisitions so he is the ideal person to help the fund to make deals in China's young nuclear power sector," said one source.

Feng's father-in-law is Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress, according to Chinese media reports. Wu, a long-time top Chinese politician, is now ranked number two in the Communist Party formal hierarchy.

Neither Feng nor a representative for the new nuclear power fund could be immediately reached for comments.

Dozens of top long-time investment bankers, such as former Goldman Sachs (GS.N) partner Mark McGoldrick, have left the investment banking industry to join the private equity world in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. [ID:nHKG174699]

Feng left Merrill Lynch in March 2008 and looked at setting up his own private equity fund but later agreed to join the government-backed nuclear fund, said the sources.

During Feng's days at Merrill, he at one time shared his role with Margaret Ren as co-chairman of China investment banking.

Ren, the daughter-in-law of former Chinese premier Zhao Zhiyang, quit Merrill Lynch in early May. [ID:nHKG373123]

GOVERNMENT CONNECTION

China is keen to build more nuclear power stations and some existing nuclear power plants also need capital to expand.

China has around 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of installed nuclear capacity but it is considering revising its 2020 target to over 80 GW from an original plan of 40 GW to increase clean energy supplies, state media reported. [ID:nPEK211791]

China's environment is strained by its widespread use of coal, which accounts for more than 70 percent of energy supplies.

Institutional investors, known as limited partners of the China Nuclear Power and New Energy Industry Investment Fund include several big Chinese banks such as Bank of China (601988.SS) (3988.HK) and China Development Bank, Chinese media reported.

Feng is now based in Beijing where the management firm of the new nuclear fund is headquartered, said the sources.

It took more than a year to win the cabinet's approval to launch the fund, said the sources. (Editing by Lincoln Feast) ($1=6.831 Yuan)

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