Bank of China said it could sell stakes to as many as six foreign strategic investors, Reuters reported. BOC, like other state banks, is preparing for an initial public offering and trying to spruce up before WTO provisions enable foreign banks to compete across the financial services spectrum. Chinese banks are allowed to sell up to 25% of total equity to foreign partners, suggesting BOC stakes held by foreign partners would be too small to impact management policy. No single foreign shareholder can hold more than 20%. One possible shareholder could be Citigroup, analysts suggested. HSBC is ruled out because of its potential tie-up with Bank of Communications, China's fifth largest lender.