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Banking

Foreign partners consider next steps for Chinese securities JVs

When it finally came, it took the market – and bankers who had been hoping for the news for many years – by surprise, but China’s decision to allow foreign partners in domestic securities joint ventures to take majority stakes raises as many questions as answers.

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Bankers have been waiting for so long for the chance to own the majority of their mainland Chinese securities businesses that many of them had pretty much given up.

Ever since Morgan Stanley bought in to the launch of CICC in 1995, and certainly since Goldman Sachs gained approval for its pioneering Goldman Sachs Gao Hua joint venture structure in 2004, western banks have waited and hoped for a pathway to control of their domestic securities operations.

The ownership ceiling went up from 33% to 49% in 2012, but that made little difference: banks want complete control of their ventures. Without it, they have been dwarfed in domestic securities business by local houses.

But now at last, progress. On Friday November 10, vice-finance minister Zhu Guangyao told a Beijing briefing that foreign firms will be allowed to own up to 51% of securities ventures and life insurance companies, and that the cap will be steadily removed in future.

He also said that foreign ownership limits on domestic banks and asset management companies would be removed.

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