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PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:19am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:19am

Hong Kong listing a milestone for Everbright Bank chairman

Share sale also marks the reaching of retirement age for former regulator Tang Shuangning, capping a career in business and politics

The listing of China Everbright Bank in Hong Kong has a double significance for its chairman, Tang Shuangning.

Tang, a former vice-chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, will reach the official retirement age of 60 next year. A successful Hong Kong float should crown a remarkable business and political career for the veteran banker after at least two earlier attempts at listing.

The long-planned sale of H shares was originally scheduled to follow Agricultural Bank of China's US$22 billion dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong in August 2010.

Now it is set become a milestone for Tang, after a major turnaround of the previously troubled Beijing-headquartered lender to become the country's 11th-largest commercial bank.

Tang was appointed chairman of the financial conglomerate Everbright Group in July 2007, moving from a regulatory position at the CBRC.

At the time, the group's banking arm, Everbright Bank, posted the most significant losses of all its 100 subsidiaries - reporting a net loss of 3 billion yuan and bad debts of 15 billion yuan that put it on the brink of collapse.

Bankers involved in Everbright Bank's proposed US$1.8 billion float are cautious and reluctant to say too much, even though its institutional tranche has been well covered.

The management has opted to keep the share sale low-key after a slew of trading problems and a US investigation into JPMorgan's employment of the offspring of powerful mainland politicians.

It is believed that not only US financial institutions are being probed by the US authorities but also European counterparts with significant exposures in the US and Asia. They are co-operating with the regulators over their hiring practices in China. At issue is whether they have employed the children of well-connected persons to win business.

Meanwhile, Everbright Bank urgently needs to replenish its capital base after non-performing loans rose 16.1 per cent to 8.8 billion yuan (HK$11.1 billion) in June from 7.6 billion yuan in December last year. Its non-performing loan ratio edged up six basis points to 0.8 per cent.

Both core-tier 1 and tier-1 capital ratios need fresh capital to raise them to officially required levels.

Investors wondering whether the Everbright's float is a good deal should consider the performance of its Shanghai-traded shares, which are trading down more than 20 per cent from their listing in 2010 at 2.85 yuan.

Everbright plans to sell about 7 per cent of its share capital and start book building on December 10. Pricing is scheduled for December 13, with trading to begin a week later.

ray.utchan@scmp.com

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