China's Citic Eyes Stake in Bear Stearns

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Jiang Dingzhi, vice-chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said Tuesday the nation's Citic Bank Corp. is bidding for a stake in U.S. investment bank Bear Stearns. "The foreign M&A of our banks is entering a new era and the pace of internationalization is accelerating," commented Jiang at a congressional meeting. Citic Group vice-chairman Chang Zhenming confirmed his company's interest in Bear, but said, "There has been no concrete progress," when asked about Mr. Jiang's comments. Talks between Citic and Bear are said to have involved Citic buying convertible bonds possibly worth as much as a 20% equity stake in Bear, according to the Financial Times. Bear CEO James Cayne earlier this month said the company would consider a partner that "brings along geographic, strategic value to us," but the company is not looking for an equity investor. Citic Bank owns 26% of rapidly growing Citic Securities, China's largest brokerage (full story). Billionaire currency trader Joseph Lewis bought a 7% stake of Bear in Sept. for $860.4M. Other parties reportedly interested in Bear include Bank of America, Wachovia, China Construction Bank and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Reuters reports. Shares of Bear Stearns lost 2% to $120.69 on Monday.

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