Bank of East Asia says had no talks to sell HK, China businesses

HONG KONG, June 2 (Reuters) - Hong Kong-based Bank of East Asia Ltd (BEA), which is conducting a review of its portfolios and assets, said on Tuesday said it has had no “external discussions” to sell its Hong Kong or China banking business.

The bank's statement to the stock exchange came in response to a Financial Times report here that said BEA was in early discussions with financial and strategic investors about the sale of its Hong Kong and China banking businesses.

The bank said in March it had agreed to carry out a review of its businesses, pausing four-year-old legal proceedings demanding change at the lender brought by activist investor Elliott Management.

BEA, which has hired Goldman Sachs to assist with the business review, last month extended the deadline for giving an update to shareholders by three months to Sept. 30.

“The bank would like to clarify that it has had no external discussions regarding the disposal of either the Hong Kong or mainland China banking businesses, and that no decisions have been made with respect to any strategic alternatives for the bank’s businesses and assets under the comprehensive strategic review,” it said in its filing on Tuesday.

Elliott has a near 8% stake in BEA and previously urged the bank - whose main markets are Hong Kong and mainland China - to explore putting itself up for sale in an open letter to shareholders, in which it also said the lender was poorly run.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; editing by Richard Pullin