HSBC says in talks to sell Ping An stake but no deal yet

HSBC has from time to time received approaches regarding its shareholding and such discussions may or may not lead to the sale of the shares, the bank says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 6:16pm


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For HSBC, to sell or not to sell its valuable holdings in Ping An Insurance, China's No 2 life insurer, is now apparently not a question. The more burning question for HSBC may be to sell the stake at what price.

Following local media reports on Monday morning about HSBC's growing intention to sell its stake in Ping An, based in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, HSBC, Europe's biggest bank by assets, said in a statement released to the media to clarify the siutation, also in an effort to cool off market speculations, which has make Hong Kong-listed Ping An's share prices sink during the morning trading session.

In the official statement, HSBC confirmed that it was in discussions to sell its 15.57 per cent stake in Ping An Insurance but no deal was reached yet.

"HSBC has from time to time received approaches regarding its shareholding and confirms that it is in discussions which may or may not lead to the sale of the shares," the bank said in the emailed statement (see below) to local and international media outlets including the South China Morning Post.

HSBC is one of the early investors of Ping An before the insurer went public in 2004. HSBC's holdings in Ping An is currently valued at about US$9.3 billion. London-headquartered HSBC, like many other European banks, has been under growing capital pressure amid the worsening debt crisis in the eurozone this year, which has forced many big banks including HSBC to lay off staff to save cost.

Other early investors of Ping An Insurance included Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The two Wall Street banks both cashed out by selling their stake in Ping An to HSBC in 2005 after the insurer went listing in Hong Kong. Ping An is also listed in Shanghai.

Charoen Pokphand Group, controlled by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, is one of the parties interested in buying the Ping An stake from HSBC, the Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

HSBC was established in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, making it one of the first foreign banks doing business in China. It is one of the three note-issuing banks in Hong Kong, a former British coloney that was handed over to Beijing in 1997.

(Additional reporting by Reuters and Bloomberg)

Photo: HSBC statement issued on November 19, 2012.