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China Bank Moves to Buy U.S. Branches

Published: January 24, 2011
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Source: Wall Street Journal

CHICAGO—China's biggest bank signed an agreement that would make it the first Beijing-controlled financial institution to acquire retail bank branches in the U.S., though regulators could still block the deal.

Under the deal, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., by some measures the world's largest bank, agreed to acquire a majority stake in Bank of East Asia Ltd.'s U.S. subsidiary. ICBC will pay $140 million for an 80% stake. Bank of East Asia, which is a publicly traded company based in Hong Kong, has a total of 13 branches in New York and California. ICBC and Bank of East Asia have talked to U.S. regulators about the deal, these people said.

China's largest bank, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., is the first Chinese bank to acquire a U.S. deposit-taking bank. Ken Brown explains why it could be the start of big expansions by Chinese financial institutions in the U.S.

The move represents what could be the start of big expansions by Chinese financial institutions in the U.S.

Signed in Chicago on the last day of Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the U.S., the move, comes as both Beijing and Washington are calling for greater commercial ties between the two countries.

Both Beijing and Washington are eager to showcase their willingness to strengthen the business ties between the two countries, despite the many issues that will continue to hinder the relations. China is prodding the U.S. to ease its export controls, especially those involving high-technology products, aimed at its biggest economic rival. The U.S. is asking for more Chinese purchases of made-in-America goods and services.

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