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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 07:21 GMT
Investors bet on China's top bank
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China branch
ICBC is China's biggest lender
Goldman Sachs, Allianz and American Express have taken a combined 10% stake in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's largest.

The $3.8bn (2.1bn) deal could see ICBC making a public share offering outside mainland China later this year.

China is seeking foreign investment and management skills as it looks to modernize its banking system.

Overseas investors then look for quick returns when the Chinese banks seek to float on Western stock exchanges.

Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of America both bought sizeable stakes in big state-owned Chinese banks last year.

Cheap sell-off

China plans to fully open its banking sector to foreign competition this year, as a precondition to its admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Under the terms of the ICBC deal, US investment bank Goldman Sachs is expected to invest about $2.58bn for a seven percent stake, European insurer Allianz is expected to take a 2.5% stake for about $1bn and US credit card firm American Express will invest about $200m.

The investors signed a pre-deal agreement with ICBC last year, but the cost of their stakes rose after accusations that Chinese regulators were selling off state assets too cheaply.

Experts expect ICBC to take further foreign investment before seeking an overseas listing.

China's biggest lender, it announced last week that its 2005 profit had jumped by more than 20%.

During 2005 it received a $15bn capital injection from the government to help it cope with a legacy of bad loans.

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