Thu, Jul 01, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Reports of possible suitors buoy Fubon's share prices

STAFF WRITER , WITH BLOOMBERG

Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) shares rose 1 percent to NT$29.3 yesterday on reports that several foreign entities have expressed interest in buying a 9.4 percent stake in Fubon Financial from Citigroup Inc.

Shares of Fubon Financial, limit-down NT$2.10 to NT$29 on Tuesday, were under heavy pressure after Citigroup announced on Monday that it plans to sell part of its Fubon stake and unload the rest. Citigroup currently holds 10.2 percent of Fubon Financial's is-sued shares.

The US banking giant said it intended to initially sell 70 million shares, or a 0.8 percent stake, in Fubon Financial. The shares will be available on the market beginning today.

Among the potential buyers, Singapore's Temasek Holdings Pte was reportedly interested in taking shares which Citigroup wants to sell, according to a Chinese-language newspaper report that did not cite its source.

Spokeswoman Rachel Lin of Temasek, Singapore's state-owned investment company, which owns banks in Indonesia and Singapore, declined to comment.

Temasek, run by Ho Ching, wife of Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, plans to invest in banks, telecommunication, health care and education companies across Asia. Last year, it bought stakes in Indonesia's PT Bank Danamon and PT Bank Internasional Indonesia. Temasek owns 28 percent of DBS Group Holdings Ltd, Singapore's biggest bank.

Besides Temasek, the report said Fubon Financial has also contacted two other potential buyers for the share sale, without naming the names.

But another Chinese-language newspaper speculated that Kookmin Bank, South Korea's largest lender, could be a potential partner for Fubon Financial.

The report said Kookmin's senior vice president Shin Ki Sup told South Korean newspaper Edaily on Sunday -- a day before the announcement of the partnership breakup between Fubon and Citigroup -- that the Seoul-based bank received an invitation to buy a stake in a Taiwanese bank, which he did not identify.

Fubon's chief financial officer Victor Kung (龔天行) declined to comment on the reports. He said the bank would consider buying back the remaining shares from Citigroup after the initial 0.8 percent sale to investors.

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