On a trip to London over the Lunar New Year, Premier Wen Jiabao sparked intense speculation by announcing that Beijing would inject US$30 billion into Agricultural Bank of China (ABC). The speculation centered on the timing of a potential listing by the state-owned bank.
While the new money may help, don’t expect a listing to happen anytime soon.
"The fourth quarter of 2009 might give them a window, but whether the necessary work can be done to bring an initial public offering (IPO) to fruition by that time can be another matter," said Michael Fosh, a partner in the Beijing office of law firm Herbert Smith who has worked on several bank listings.
ABC, the only one of the big four state-owned banks that has yet to go public, was restructured as a joint stock company in January, with the Ministry of Finance and Central Huijin, an arm of China’s sovereign wealth fund, each holding 50%. Yet Beijing has given no details as to when ABC might list, or whether a strategic foreign investor would buy a stake.
While foreign investors took early stakes in its peers, analysts believe ABC might be carving a different path.
Richard Lung, vice pre