China's AgBank still in talks with strategic investors

BEIJING, July 28 (Reuters) - Agricultural Bank of China [ABC.UL], China’s last big state lender that has yet to float shares, is still in talks with strategic investors, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

Luo Xi, executive vice-president, said the bank would step up preparation work in the second half for an initial public offering (IPO). “We are still talking with various strategic investors,” Luo said, adding that current market conditions were favourable for a public share issue.

He declined to name any of the suitors, the underwriters for the share sale, or a time frame for the IPO.

Earlier this year, chairman Xiang Junbo said any strategic investor should have experience in rural, agricultural or micro-finance lending.

In a statement published on its website on Monday, the bank said it would push through internal reforms in the second half to be technically ready for an IPO.

Central Huijin, the domestic investment arm of China’s sovereign wealth fund, now owns half of AgBank following a $19 billion capital injection in November 2008. The finance ministry owns the other half.

The bank’s assets totalled 8.48 trillion yuan ($1.24 trillion) by the end of June, versus liabilities of 8.16 trillion yuan.

It lent 858.9 billion yuan in both domestic- and foreign-currency denominated loans in the first half, compared with new lending of 219.3 billion yuan at the same period of last year.

(Reporting by Langi Chiang and Kirby Chien; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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