Allianz, American Express sell shares in Chinese bank

Allianz, American Express sell shares in Chinese bank Beijing  - Germany's Allianz Group and US-based American Express have sold shares valued at up to 2 billion dollars in China's biggest commercial bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the companies said on Tuesday.

Allianz said it had sold 3.216 billion shares, or half of its stake in ICBC, to "a select group of investors through a private sale."

The Germany-based finance group continues to hold another 3.216 billion shares representing about 0.97 per cent of ICBC's total shares, or 3.87 per cent of its Hong Kong-listed shares, Allianz said.

American Express also sold 638 million shares, or half of its stake in ICBC, the Chinese bank said.

Both sales were made at the expiry of a lock-up agreement on Tuesday with ICBC, the world's largest bank by market value, the statements said.

The companies did not reveal the sale price of the shares, but ICBC's Hong Kong shares closed at 4.02 Hong Kong dollars (0.52 US dollars) on Monday.

A joint agreement with ICBC last month also left US financial firm Goldman Sachs free to sell as much as 20 per cent of its stake in the Chinese bank.

Goldman Sachs holds 4.93 per cent of ICBC's shares, with an estimated value of 7.5 billion dollars.

News of Tuesday's sales followed several other high-profile sales of stakes in Chinese banks by foreign investors this year.

The ICBC recorded the world's biggest initial public offering when it raised 19.1 billion dollars in October 2006 from a dual-listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

On Monday, the bank reported a 6.2-per-cent increase in net profit to 35.15 billion yuan (5.15 billion dollars) in the first quarter of 2009, citing record growth of credit business and reductions in non-performing loans. (dpa)