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UPDATED: January 8, 2009
Li Ka-shing Sells BOC Shares
Hongkong billionaire Li Ka-shing is raising as much as HK$4.06 billion by selling shares in the Bank of China Ltd.

Hongkong billionaire Li Ka-shing is raising as much as HK$4.06 billion ($524 million) by selling shares in the Bank of China Ltd, the nation's third-largest bank by market value, according to a stock sale document.

Li's Magnitico Holdings Ltd is offering 2 billion shares in the Beijing-based bank to institutions at HK$1.98 to HK$2.03 each, according to the document obtained by Bloomberg News. The Bank of China shares closed at HK$2.14 yesterday. Merrill Lynch & Co is managing the sale.

The sale by Li, 80, whose charity owns Magnitico, comes after UBS sold shares in the Bank of China to raise funds as the global financial crisis erodes its balance sheet. Bank of America sold $2.8 billion of shares in China Construction Bank Corp yesterday.

Overseas investors, including Bank of America and UBS, are selling stakes in Chinese mainland lenders after shares they bought in 2005 became freely tradable.

The Bank of China dropped 3.2 percent in Hong Kong yesterday, and China Construction slipped 8.8 percent. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, whose shareholders, including Goldman Sachs, will be free to sell stock this year, tumbled 7.3 percent.

The Bank of China spokesman Wang Zhaowen said he was unaware of the sale. Wendy Tong Barnes, spokeswoman for Li's flagship property developer Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd, wasn't available for comment.

Magnitico was part of a group of investors led by Royal Bank of Scotland Group that bought 20.9 billion shares in the Bank of China in 2005, before the lender went public. Magnitico owned 24 percent of the group, giving it about 5 billion shares of the Bank of China, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the mainland bank's 2006 Hong Kong initial share sale prospectus.

The Bank of China shares held by the RBS-led group, which also includes Merrill Lynch, fund managers D E Shaw & Co, Oaktree Capital Management and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, were locked up until the end of last year.

They joined other foreign investors whose equity holdings in Chinese banks have recently been or are about to be freed from trading restrictions.

Goldman Sachs owns 16.5 billion shares in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and has agreed not to sell them until after April 28.

(Shanghai Daily January 8, 2009)

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