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China’s big banks: Chinese whispers

China Development Bank’s deal with Barclays Bank, which might involve the state-owned lender investing up to $11.6 billion in the UK bank, and China Investment Corporation’s $3 billion subscription for shares in the IPO of private equity firm Blackstone, have increased speculation as to what moves China’s largest lenders might make next and what the targets might be.

China’s banks seek cautious steps onto world stage

Hong Kong scramble Although many market observers still expect China’s big three banks – China Construction Bank (CCB), Bank of China, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – to move more cautiously, the increasing profile of China’s big banks as well as the speed with which China’s largest resources companies and manufacturers have begun to acquire assets overseas is leading to some interesting speculation.

With most of the targeted deals surrounding China’s resources companies taking place in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, state banks wishing to bank these clients globally are likely to do so more quickly and effectively by acquiring a relevant branch network across these jurisdictions than painstakingly trying to build the network from scratch, which would take years.

The obvious acquisition target for a state bank to achieve this is global emerging markets bank Standard Chartered Bank.

The acquisition of Standard Chartered Bank would offer a Chinese lender not only a network to enable it to follow its clients into the Middle East and Africa, the deal would also bring a coveted Asian presence, including, crucially, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, all countries with a significant Chinese diaspora.

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