China's Anbang Insurance in fresh attempt to sell stake in Chengdu bank

FILE PHOTO: A company flag and the Chinese national flag fly outside the headquarters of Anbang Insurance Group in Beijing, China, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Anbang Insurance Group, which was taken over by the government last year, said it has put its 35% stake in Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank up for sale for 16.5 billion yuan ($2.4 billion), its second attempt to offload the lender.

The planned sale, revealed in an exchange filing on Tuesday, comes as China attempts to tame financial and credit risks among the country’s smaller lenders while Anbang, once among China’s most aggressive dealmakers, conducts a slew of asset sales.

Anbang tried to sell Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank for 16.8 billion yuan in December last year, only to withdraw the offer in January without explanation.

Potential investors include Chengdu Xingcheng Investment Group, a local government-backed investment vehicle, according to one source familiar with the matter and financial news outlet Caixin.

Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank and Chengdu Xingcheng Investment Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In February 2018 the Chinese government seized control of the previously high-flying Anbang as part of a campaign to curb financial risk in the aftermath of a massive asset-buying spree by a handful of private-sector conglomerates.

China’s financial regulators have also pushed local governments to take the lead in managing crises that have flared up among small lenders. Five regional banks have been hit by management or liquidity problems this year.

Anbang is the biggest shareholder of state-backed Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank.

In the event of multiple bids for Anbang’s stake in the bank, the Beijing Financial Assets Exchange will conduct an auction that will conclude on Feb. 1, the filing said.

Reporting by Cheng Leng, Tony Munroe and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman