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Investors Ready for Landmark IPO By Chinese Bank


Global investors are readying for the biggest public share offering of the year as China Construction Bank aims to be the first of China's "big four" state-owned banks to list overseas.

China Construction Bank hopes to raise more than $7 billion in its initial public offering - or IPO - this month. If it meets this target, the IPO will be the world's largest this year.

Stock analysts say China Construction Bank's IPO will be a litmus test for other big Chinese banks waiting to list overseas.

Chinese banks are struggling with billions of dollars in bad loans to state-run enterprises. But the government recently injected billions of dollars into state-owned banks to improve their financial standing, among them China Construction Bank.

The bank has since managed to reduce bad loans from 17 percent of total loans at the end of 2002 to four percent.

Ken Yau, a bank analyst at Core Pacific Yamaichi Securities in Hong Kong, says this has improved the prospects for China Construction Bank.

"In the past they were troubled by historical bad loans, but now since the government paid its bill, they have a fresh start to try to be profitable on their own," said Mr. Yau.

Despite the industry's financial troubles, foreign companies have been buying stakes in Chinese banks ahead of full market liberalization.

In recent months, the Singapore government's investment arm, Temasek Holdings has invested $1 billion in China Construction Bank, while Bank of America has acquired a $2.5 billion stake in the bank.

In other banking news, the U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs says it will buy an additional 10 percent in Hana Bank for $500 million, making it the bank's single largest investor. Goldman Sachs already owns some three percent of South Korea's fourth largest lender. Hana Bank officials say Goldman Sachs' investment will boost the bank's capital and financial expertise.

The United Arab Emirates' International Petroleum Investment Company says it intends to buy a 20 percent stake in Taiwan's state-owned oil company, Chinese Petroleum Corporation. The $5 billion offer is now awaiting approval from the Taiwan parliament.

And a Philippine provincial government is suing a Canadian mining company for alleged environmental damage. Placer Dome owned 40 percent of a copper mine blamed for discharging millions of tons of waste into two rivers in 1996. The mine was closed shortly after the incident and Placer Dome sold its stake in the mine in 1997.

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