SINGAPORE, March 28 Singapore's Oversea-Chinese
Banking Corp Ltd (OCBC), in talks to buy Hong Kong's
Wing Hang Bank Ltd, has halted trading of its shares
three days before the banks' exclusive talks on a multibillion
dollar deal are due to expire.
The suspension came after Bloomberg News reported on Friday
that OCBC, Singapore's second-biggest lender, has obtained
preliminary approval from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
(HKMA) and that both sides are nearing a deal.
An agreement would allow OCBC to make a general offer for
the bank's remaining shares in a deal estimated by sources at
Shares of Wing Hang were also halted in Hong Kong trading on
Friday pending an announcement, the bank said.
A spokeswoman for OCBC declined to comment on the report,
while the HKMA said it does not comment on matters relating to
OCBC has been in exclusive talks with the biggest
shareholders of Wing Hang to acquire a 45 percent stake in the
mid-sized lender since late December, with the talks having been
extended twice. The latest deadline is March 31.
The deal will give OCBC a much sought-after gateway to China
and help bridge the gap with bigger rival DBS Group Holdings
, which operates Hong Kong's fifth-biggest bank.
OCBC's CEO Samuel Tsien said at the Reuters ASEAN Summit on
Monday that the bank aims to expand in Greater China which it
sees as the engine of Asian economic activity, rather than in
another market in Southeast Asia where OCBC is already
OCBC is in discussions to purchase the Wing Hang stake from
members of the bank's founding Fung family, their affiliates and
related family trusts, and BNY International Financing Corp.
OCBC shares were down 1.14 percent, underperforming the
benchmark index, while Wing Hang shares were up nearly 9 percent
before being suspended.
(Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Ryan