The earliest Hong Kong will see an initial public offering of a mainland state-owned bank will be mid-2005, according to a report quoting Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Chairman Charles Lee. The banks need time to reduce non-performing loans and to let auditors bring their books up to international standards. "Given their large networks, the auditing work will probably only be completed by the first quarter of next year at the earliest," Lee said. The prime candidates for listing are the big four state banks — Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of China. The Bank of China's Hong Kong and Macau operations were listed in 2002.