* Fought, wounded in 1979 Sino-Vietnamese border war
* Wrote award-winning screenplay about corruption
* Offloaded $120 bln of bad loans to govt-backed agency
(Refiles to correct spelling of soldier in first paragraph)
By Michael Wei and Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING, July 15 Soldier, scriptwriter and now
chairman of a bank with assets worth more than India's annual
economy, Xiang Junbo is guiding Agricultural Bank of China's
(601288.SS) record-breaking IPO to a close. [ID:nTOE66D07M]
Xiang took over the reins of the country's third-largest
lender by assets three years ago, when it was considered to be
Building on his experience as No.2 at both the central bank
and National Audit Office, Xiang turned the bank around by
offloading 810 billion yuan ($120 billion) in bad loans to a
government-backed asset management company.
The Beijing-based bank, founded in 1951 by Mao Zedong as
the rural unit of the central bank, is now in much better shape
but is still viewed as the weakest among China's big lenders.
It lists in Hong Kong on Friday, where a successful debut
would see underwriters offer additional shares to boost the
total size from $19.3 billion to a world record $22.1 billion.
For TAKE A LOOK on AgBank [ID:nSGE65307X]
StarMine comparative data r.reuters.com/jan46m
FACTBOX on China's AgBank [ID:nTOE65308J]
Graphic comparing China banks:
Graphic on top China bank IPOs:
Xiang faces a battle to guide the bank through the final
stages of its public offer and set it on a course for sustained
profitability. He has overcome bigger hurdles.
Born in 1957 in Chongqing, China's wartime capital, Xiang
became a farmer in his teens, having taken up Chairman Mao's
call for young people to go to the countryside during the
tumultuous days of the Cultural Revolution.
He joined the army at age 22 and fought in the brief but
bloody Sino-Vietnamese border war in 1979. He was wounded in
the leg and won a Second-Class Merit for his bravery, according
to the China Youth Daily.
After his discharge, Xiang heeded his university professor
father and became a finance major at prestigious Renmin
University in 1981, despite his love for literature and the
In the two decades that followed, Xiang's specialism in
business stood him in good stead as China shifted its focus to
economic development from political campaigns.
With more than 20 years of auditing experience, Xiang, who
holds a law doctorate from the elite Peking University, is well
known for his by-the-book approach, which played a critical
role in AgBank's risk control and anti-corruption drive.
Xiang has also married that approach to his interests in
the arts, and written movie scripts on graft and auditing
including the award-winning anti-corruption movie "The Crack".
Xiang might have trouble finding the time for writing these
AgBank now boasts nearly 24,000 branches and employs more
than 441,000 people, eclipsing Industrial and Commercial Bank
of China (1398.HK) and China Construction Bank (0939.HK), the
world's two biggest banks by market value.
As the bank closest to the masses, AgBank has 350 million
customers, more than the population of the United States.
Heavy dependence on China's vast yet poor rural areas,
however, led to AgBank's non-performing loan ratio reaching 27
percent at the end of 2007.
Xiang helped slash that ratio to just 3.66 percent at the
end of 2009 and was instrumental in turning AgBank into a joint
stock company the same year. The bank now has assets of almost
$1.4 trillion, more than India's gross domestic product.
But an industry-wide lending binge means Chinese banks need
to replenish their capital. Rivals including Industrial &
Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) 0349.HK(601398.SS) and Bank
of China (3988.HK)(601988.SS) are also returning to capital
markets to raise tens of billions of dollars, weighing on
Shanghai stocks .SSEC.
They too will be hoping Xiang can script a fitting climax
with a successful AgBank IPO.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast)