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Banking

China: Two sneak through

China has so far allowed just two foreign investment banks to strike deals to manage domestic securities firms. The deals are very different in structure, but both focus on the key issue of control and both are mired in controversy. Chris Leahy reports.

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Although Chinese laws still limit foreign participation in domestic securities businesses to a passive shareholding not to exceed 33%, two deals claim to have bypassed these regulations, critically with the explicit approval of the Chinese government. The deals, one by Goldman Sachs, the other from UBS, underscore the power of the banks’ mainland connections and the pragmatism of the Chinese authorities.

Goldman Sachs’s transaction, Gao Hua, is an unusual and clever deal that has enabled the Wall Street giant to control the joint venture, albeit via a byzantine structure. Approved in December 2004, Gao Hua gives Goldman its coveted domestic securities licences and the right to underwrite and trade domestic equities and debt.

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