New China Life joins ICBC to deny plan to join US$4.2b AIG deal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 4:15am

New China Life Insurance yesterday became the second company to distance itself from a US$4.23 billion deal billed as the largest Chinese acquisition of an American company.

It denied agreeing to join the consortium involved in the purchase of aircraft leasing company International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) from American International Group (AIG).

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the mainland's largest bank, had already denied any role in the deal, with bank spokesman Wang Zhenning telling the South China Morning Post: "ICBC as well as its subsidiaries have no plan to join the consortium to acquire ILFC."

AIG announced on Monday that a consortium led by Chongqing-based New China Trust had agreed to buy 80 per cent of ILFC.

According to AIG's press release, the consortium would have the option of increasing its stake up to 89.9 per cent and that the group of investors was expected to expand to include ICBC International - the bank's brokerage arm - and New China Life Insurance, once regulators in China and the US cleared the deal.

A statement by New China Life's co-company secretary said: "We were not made aware of the press release prior to it being made public."

The statement added: "We would like to clarify that [New China Life Insurance] has not reached consensus to enter into any binding transaction agreements with the consortium, the acquiring entity, nor the seller."

But a spokesman for the corporate communications company representing the consortium said: "Their responses are not contradictory to the press release because they [New China Life and ICBC International] are at the secondary level of the acquisition and pending the acquisition's approval."

New China Trust, China Aviation Industrial Fund and P3 Investment, which is owned by Hong Kong businessman Ng Wing-fai's Primus Holdings, have signed the agreement to acquire the 80 per cent stake, said a person familiar with the deal.

"The only issue is with the remaining 9.9 per cent, which is awaiting regulatory approval," the person added.

New China Trust, which leads the consortium, had assets of just 2.26 billion yuan (HK$2.78 billion) at the end of its 2011 fiscal year. Formerly an ICBC subsidiary called ICBC Chongqing Trust Company, the firm was restructured by Weng Xianding, a senior mainland government official.