HK, New York unlikely venues for US$2b IPO A long-awaited listing by China Minsheng Banking Corp may now be headed for the London stock market, people familiar with the on again, off again listing plans said. The mainland's only privately held bank, which shelved a proposed listing on the Hong Kong market two years ago, is considering selling shares in an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange's main board next year to raise at least US$2 billion, instead of doing it in Hong Kong or New York, the sources said. Although the bank has not made a final decision on where to list its shares, the sources said some board members favoured London, which they believed would give the bank a higher international profile than Hong Kong. But bankers specialising in financial institutions were sceptical about the latest talk, given the continuing flood of liquidity into the region from international institutional investors. 'That's a logical thought. But only for the uneducated,' said one Beijing-based banker. 'They'll get a higher valuation out here,' added a Hong Kong-based banker. However, the sources floating the idea of a London listing said Minsheng also considered the British market as preferable to New York because of a perceived less onerous compliance and regulatory regime. The LSE declined to comment and a spokesman in Minsheng's investor relations department said he was not aware of such a plan. In the United States, the Sarbanes-Oxley law implemented five years ago in the wake of corporate scandals involving Enron Corp, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom, tightened accounting practices for publicly listed companies and holds corporate chiefs more accountable to investors. Following complaints that the law was prohibitive, the US securities regulator last year started amending its more onerous parts. China Life Insurance, the mainland's largest insurer, became Minsheng's largest shareholder with its 6.17 per cent stake purchase earlier this year through a private share placement. Ping An Insurance (Group), the mainland's second-largest insurer, became Minsheng's fourth-largest shareholder with a 4.93 per cent stake. 'Minsheng is regarded as one of the best banking operators in the mainland but its shareholders have disagreements that could be negative to business development,' said Albert Cheng, a banking analyst at Quam Capital. 'The major insurance companies have taken stakes in Minsheng [so] the government may try to help management become smoother. These are some of the biggest players in the mainland's financial market and the management has to respect that.' Beijing-based Minsheng was set up in 1996 by 59 private corporations. The bank's A shares have risen 84 per cent this year, paling against the Shanghai Composite Index, which has doubled. If Minsheng lists on the LSE's main board, it will join six other mainland companies - Jiangxi Copper, Sinopec Corp, Air China, Zhejiang Southeast Electric Power, Datang International Power Generation and Zhejiang Expressway. London's junior market, the Alternative Investment Market, allows smaller companies to float shares in a more flexible regulatory system than that of the main market. It had attracted 58 companies from the mainland. Hong Kong-listed Shui On Construction and Materials also listed China Central Properties, its distressed mainland property business, separately on the AIM in May.