China's unit eyes $1.5 billion stake in First Capital: sources

HONG KONG (Reuters) - JD Finance, a unit of China's No.2 e-commerce firm JD.O, is in talks to buy a 24 percent stake worth about $1.5 billion in domestic brokerage First Capital Securities Co Ltd 002797.SZ, people with knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works at a logistics centre in Langfang, Hebei province, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

If the deal goes through, it would be a precursor to JD Finance venturing into financial sectors such as securities, banking and insurance that are seeing the entry of several new technology-focused players. Currently, it mainly offers online financial services and products in China.

JD Finance is looking to buy the stake from First Capital’s top and third-largest shareholders, Bloomage Xinyu Investment and Nengxing Holdings Group that own 15.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, one of the sources added.

Based on First Capital's market value of about $6 billion as of Friday, a 24 percent stake in the company - which was JPMorgan Chase's JPM.N former China securities joint venture partner - would be worth about $1.5 billion.

The deal, however, is yet to be finalized as no agreement has been reached over valuation, the sources said. declined to comment about its or JD Finance’s plans. First Capital, Bloomage Xinyu and Nengxing did not respond to Reuters request for comment., which owned 68.6 percent of its finance unit before it was spun-off this year, sold 28.6 percent of the unit for $2.2 billion to a couple of undisclosed investors.

An acquisition of a First Capital stake will take JD Finance into a territory that has traditionally been dominated by large and state-owned groups, but which is now seeing an influx of new entrants such as technology giants Alibaba Group BABA.N finance affiliate Ant Financial and Tencent 0700.HK.

JD Finance, which only owns a few, small financial licenses such as a third-party payment license in China, will likely get access to some lucrative businesses of First Capital and its units, including those of securities, funds and stock futures, after the stake acquisition, one of the sources said.

The company aims to gain relevant financial licenses either through fresh applications or equity investments in domestic firms, CEO Richard Liu told staff earlier this year.

Liu owns 4.3 percent of JD Finance, but holds a majority of voting rights through proxy agreements.

First Capital, one of China’s few listed private brokers, tied up with JPMorgan to set up JP Morgan First Capital Securities Co in 2010. JPMorgan sold its 33.3 percent stake in the JV to First Capital in December 2016.

Reporting by Julie Zhu, Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Himani Sarkar