Singapore - Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) said Monday it was in exclusive talks to acquire Hong Kong's Wing Hang Bank, in a move that could give it greater access to the Chinese market.

Dow Jones Newswires said a potential deal could value the Hong Kong lender at more than $5.0 billion.

OCBC said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange it signed an “exclusivity agreement” on December 31 with the substantial shareholders of Wing Hang.

Under the accord, the substantial shareholders agreed to hold exclusive talks with OCBC until the end of January to finalise terms “for a possible transaction” that would involve the Singapore bank making a general offer for all Wing Hang shares.

OCBC, Singapore's second biggest bank by total assets, stressed that no deal has yet been reached.

“Accordingly, at this stage, there is no certainty that the terms of a possible offer will be agreed, or that a possible offer or any similar transaction will ultimately be consummated,” OCBC said.

Grace Wu, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets, said Hong Kong banks are attractive buys because of their presence in the giant Chinese market.

“For banks in Asia, acquiring a Hong Kong bank would provide immediate access to China, as most of them have locally incorporated subsidiaries in the mainland,” Wu told AFP.

“And for banks like Wing Hang Bank - which also enjoys a presence in Macau - the M&A (merger and acquisition) appeal is even greater, in our view.”

Wing Hang has 75 branches across Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau, according to its website.

Singapore banks have been seeking growth beyond the city-state's small domestic market.

In 2001 its biggest bank DBS bought Hong Kong's Dao Heng Bank for Sg$10 billion ($7.89 billion). - Sapa-AFP