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US, German Investors Buy Stake in Chinese Bank


Two U.S. financial companies and a German insurer invest in China's biggest lender, while a Singaporean company is locked in a bidding battle for Britain's largest port operator.

China's biggest bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China or I.C.B.C., has agreed to sell an estimated 10 percent stake to a trio of investors led by U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The $3.8 billion deal is among the biggest foreign investments in China's banking industry.

I.C.B.C. said its new investors would help the bank develop a range of products - German insurer Allianz would assist in providing insurance products, while American Express would continue to help develop its consumer credit business.

Foreign investors have been courting China's debt-ridden but potentially lucrative state-owned banks as the industry prepares to fully open up to foreign players at the end of the year.

Singapore's port operator, P.S.A. International, is locked in a bidding war with Dubai's D.P. World to acquire Britain's largest port operator, P&O.

P.S.A. had been close to victory after P&O's board (Thursday) endorsed its $6.3 billion offer to shareholders. But on Friday, D.P. World raised its bid to nearly $7 billion.

P.S.A. must decide whether to offer a higher price by February 13, when P&O's shareholders meet to vote on the bids. If P.S.A. succeeds in acquiring P&O, it would make the Singapore government-owned company the world's largest container-port operator.

In India, the country's largest privately owned mobile phone operator, Bharti Tele-ventures, says net profit for the quarter that ended December 2005 jumped 25 percent from the same period the previous year. Suni Bharti Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer, says the market is expanding.

"The company experienced highest ever net addition in a single quarter of 2.4 million telecom customers," Mittal said. "The company added close to a million subscribers in the month of December alone."

In other earnings news, South Korea's largest automaker Hyundai motors said its net profit for the quarter ending in December rose 70 percent from the same period in 2004. The company said profit increases in its factories overseas helped lift earnings.

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