China's ICBC to buy control of Standard Bank unit

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Industrial and Commercial Bank of China01 Reuters. An employee speaks on the phone in the headquarters of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) in Beijing, October 15, 2013.

Johannesburg - Standard Bank said it would sell a 60 percent stake in its London-based global markets unit to China's ICBC for $765 million, as Africa's top lender scales back operations outside the continent.

The cash deal announced on Wednesday also highlights the growing global ambitions of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), as well as China's appetite to trade commodities in addition to consuming them.

The announcement confirms what sources familiar with the matter had told Reuters in July.

Standard Bank, 20 percent owned by China's biggest bank, has been hiving off its operations outside Africa to focus on fast growing sub-Saharan economies.

ICBC will acquire control of the global markets business, which focuses on commodities, fixed income, currencies, credit and equities products, Standard Bank said in a statement.

Its London-based investment banking, transaction products and principal investment management businesses are not included in the deal.

ICBC will be granted a five-year option to purchase another 20 percent of the global markets unit for up to $500 million in cash.

If it exercises that option, Standard will then have the right to require ICBC to buy out the remaining stake for up to $600 million.

“The platform has the potential to create considerably more value ... from a wider spectrum of opportunities than are currently available to it, given Standard Bank Group's narrower strategic focus on Africa,” the Johannesburg-based bank said.

Chinese trading companies are well represented in oil and some other commodities markets.

But while China's massive demand for resources has underpinned worldwide markets for everything from oil to iron ore, Chinese banks have been relatively slow to embrace commodities trading.

ICBC has lagged behind its rival, Bank of China Ltd, which in 2012 became the first Chinese member of the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Standard Bank in 2012 finalised the sale of 80 percent of its Argentine business to ICBC.

The two said last year they had agreed to fund 20 billion rand ($1.8 billion of renewable energy projects in South Africa.

The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Standard Bank said it was advised by Deutsche Securities, part of Deutsche Bank.

A source previously told Reuters that ICBC was being advised by Citigroup.

Shares of Standard Bank were up 0.4 percent at 122.50 rand by 13:31 SA time. - Reuters


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