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Banking

Hong Kong: BEA and Elliott show solidarity but doubts linger over bank's future

Bank of East Asia and activist investor Elliott have long bickered about the weak share performance of Hong Kong’s last family-run lender. A strategic review led by Goldman Sachs and backed by both aims to offer guidance about its future.

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David Li, chairman of Bank of East Asia


Bank of East Asia (BEA) and activist shareholder Elliott Management put a long-running legal dispute on hold, announcing a strategic review of the Hong Kong lender’s operations just weeks before the start of a court hearing.

The détente marks a pause in long-standing hostilities between the two. Elliott first called for the bank to put itself up for sale five years ago, with the New York hedge fund linking BEA’s poor share performance to perceived weak management.

However, on Wednesday, the pair issued a joint press release saying Goldman Sachs had been hired to carry out a ‘comprehensive review’ of BEA, to identify ‘strategic transactions’ that would boost its bottom line. A spokesman at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong declined to comment.

It marks the first time the two sides have properly seen eye to eye.

In the statement, BEA co-CEOs Adrian and Brian Li said the review was “important” to efforts to improve capital efficiency and shareholder value, while Elliott co-chief executive Jonathan Pollock pointed to BEA’s “strong and valuable franchise” in Hong Kong and mainland China.

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