The State Council has approved a plan for a consortium led by US banking giant Citigroup to buy a 19.9% stake in troubled Guangdong Development Bank, beating out a competing bid from a consortium led by France's Societe Generale, AFP reported, citing a Guangdong bank official. The decision appears to end a year-and a-half battle for control of the debt-laden south China lender by the US and French-led consortiums, both of which teamed up with mainland Chinese partners to offer around US$3 billion for an 85% stake. But Chinese authorities insisted in May that the two groups respect current regulations restricting foreign consortiums to stakes no higher than 25% in Chinese banks, of which no individual bank can own more than 20%. Societe Generale's chief of communications for the Asia-Pacific region, Laurent Tison, said the bank had not been advised of any decision, adding that he would be surprised if a final selection had been made at this stage. Reuters reported that no decision had been made.