Agricultural Bank of China has completed its restructuring into a joint stock company, taking a big step towards its goal of a share offering. The bank, the only Big Four state-owned lender without a listing, held an inaugural ceremony in Beijing yesterday and also appointed heads of its new management, according to a report on its website. Agricultural Bank, the country's third-largest lender by assets, had said it would be 'technically ready' for an offering by the second half of the year, but analysts said the current dormant capital market conditions might force the lender to wait until next year or even later. The bank is also expected to bring in some strategic investors, a prescribed move in the course of offering by the other three state-owned lenders. 'With some formerly state-owned banks already listed, investors' acceptance of mainland bank shares is getting warmer, so they are not too critical at whether they should have more strategic investors or not,' said Samuel Chen, a banking analyst with JP Morgan. The bank did not disclose the names of the top managers, but sources said that Xiang Junbo, a former governor of the bank, was appointed chairman, while former vice-governor Zhang Yun was named president. The company, equally owned by the Ministry of Finance and Central Huijin, an arm of the nation's sovereign wealth fund, had a registered capital of 260 billion yuan (HK$295.1 billion), it said. Agricultural Bank received a 130 billion yuan capital injection from Central Huijin in November last year to help clean up its books, which had been marred by its traditional role as a policy lender to farmers and rural businesses. It also placed more than 800 billion yuan of bad loans in that month with a special asset management firm. Beijing has made it clear that the lender should maintain its traditional focus on the countryside, which usually carries low profit margin, although it is allowed to run purely commercial operations. 'Agricultural Bank has more outlets in both the countryside and cities than any other major commercial bank on the mainland, so although it still has to keep an eye on farmers' credit needs, it does not mean it will surely lose in cities,' Mr Chen said.