UPDATE 1-AgBank dismisses reports China asking for IPO delay
* Hong Kong, local media say government wants IPO postponed
* AgBank issues first public denial of such reports
By Victoria Bi and Jason Subler
SHANGHAI, June 9 (Reuters) - An executive with the Agricultural Bank of China on Wednesday dismissed as "nonsense" reports that its government shareholders were pushing it to postpone its planned share issue due to weak market conditions.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post on Wednesday cited two unidentified sources involved in the offering as saying AgBank's two state shareholders -- the Ministry of Finance and Central Huijin -- wanted AgBank to postpone its listing as it was having a difficult time drumming up interest in the sale.
Central Huijin is the domestic arm of the country's sovereign wealth fund.
Contacted by Reuters by telephone, AgBank [ABC.UL] Vice President Pan Gongsheng said reports that Beijing was pressing for a delay of the massive share issue had no grounding in fact. Some domestic media outlets have also suggested the government was pushing for a delay of the IPO.
"Many potential investors have expressed great interest," Pan said, in AgBank's first public denial of the reports.
For AgBank TAKE A LOOK [ID:nSGE65307X]
AgBank is expected to obtain formal approval from China's securities regulator for the Shanghai portion of its dual listing on Wednesday, and to get the green light from Hong Kong's stock regulator a day later.
However, the timing of the listing, which could be the world's largest, is still unclear, and the weak stock market and flood of fundraising plans by other lenders and companies have created some uncertainty about how much it will ultimately raise.
A Reuters poll of 18 fund managers, strategists and analysts conducted this week suggests AgBank could command a valuation of 1.5 times its book value.
That would mean AgBank could raise close to $20 billion, far from the $30 billion that sources with direct knowledge of the process have said it was initially aiming for, which would have made it the world's biggest IPO ever.
(Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)
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