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4 July 2009

Thailand open to ICBC offer to buy ACL bank

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Thailand will look at any request by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to buy more than 49 percent in ACL Bank as long as the offer is good and will benefit the sector, Reuters quoted the country’s finance minister as saying Thursday.

Foreign companies need official approval before taking a stake of more than 49 percent in a Thai bank.

"We have to see how ICBC expresses its intention, but we are ready to consider that. We will consider not only ICBC, but anybody who is interested in the bank," Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij told reporters late on Thursday.

"But they need to submit their proposals to the Bank of Thailand first," he said, adding ICBC had not yet expressed its intention nor submitted an official plan to the central bank.

ACL shares surged earlier this week on reports that ICBC was interested in investing in the bank and wanted the government to support a stake purchase.

On Tuesday, a Bangkok Bank executive said provisional agreement had been reached on the sale of its 19 percent stake in ACL to ICBC, and the Bangkok Post reported that ICBC also wanted to launch a tender offer for other shares.

ACL is owned 30.6 percent by the Finance Ministry. ICBC has been in talks about buying a 49 percent stake from existing shareholders since October 2007, but the global financial crisis intervened and delayed an agreement.

Korn said foreign entities wanting to buy more than 49 percent of Thai financial institutions needed to submit their plans to the BoT first, and they would then be forwarded to the ministry for approval if considered appropriate.

Korn declined to say whether the ministry would sell all or part of its stake in ACL. But he said if ICBC bought into ACL, it would boost trade and investment between the two countries. ACL is the smallest Thai lender with assets of 62.3 billion baht ($1.8 billion).


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