SINGAPORE, March 28 (Reuters) - 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 $5.3 billion.
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 specific institutions.
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 well-entrenched.
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 Woo)