A Citigroup-led consortium was confirmed as the preferred bidder for Guangdong Development Bank at a signing ceremony at the banks headquarters Thursday, the <i>Financial Times</i> reported. The announcement ends a 12 month battle against a rival consortium led by Societe Generale, the French bank, for the right to bid for the struggling lender. Local insurance company Ping An was also in the race. Citigroup and its partners will pay US$3.1 billion for an 85.6% cent stake in the bank. Citigroup, Chinese utility State Grid, and China Life, the mainland's biggest insurer, will each hold 20% of the bank's shares, Citic Trust 12.85% and Puhua Investment 8%. International Business Machines, which only recently joined the group, will take a 4.74% stake. The consortium will now enter an exclusive period of negotiations with GDB, and full regulatory approval is expected within weeks. SocGen said it would "evaluate the situation in the coming day."