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BRANCH BANKING | Tony Chua, China

China Construction Bank keen on buying a Brazilian lender

The Chinese bank in talks with 3 banks and may shell out US$600mn in the move.

China Construction Bank Corp. is in talks to acquire a bank in Brazil and is in very preliminary negotiations with "two to three" Brazilian banks, a person familiar with the situation said Monday.

The move is the latest in a series of attempts by Chinese companies to increase their foothold in the emerging Latin American market.

It will cost CCB around US$200 million to buy the smallest of the three Brazilian banks, while buying the other two will cost around US$500 million to US$600 million each, the person said, without identifying the banks.

Chinese state-run oil companies have made a big push into Latin America over the past two years as part of efforts to secure energy supplies and diversify their investments abroad, and Chinese banks are joining oil companies in investing in the region.

In August, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (1398.HK), China's largest bank by assets, said it was buying an 80% stake in Standard Bank Group Ltd.'s Argentina operations in a deal valued at US$600 million. The deal came after the Brazilian central bank said in April that ICBC submitted an application to begin operations in Brazil.

CCB, China's second biggest bank by assets, has a network of about 13,629 branches mainly on the mainland with overseas branches in Singapore, Frankfurt, Johannesburg,Tokyo,Seoul, New York, Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney.

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