Chinese bank gets go ahead for giant share flotation

Image caption, The bank has a predominantly rural customer base

Agricultural Bank of China (Agbank) has been given the go-ahead by Chinese regulators for what could be the world's largest share flotation.

Agbank is planning to sell a stake of 14% in a dual listing that will see its shares join both the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

The listing is expected to raise at least $17.6bn (£12.2bn), but could reach as high as $30bn, say analysts.

The current record amount raised in a share flotation is $21.9bn.

This was set in 2006 by fellow Chinese lender Industrial & Commercial Bank of China.

The reason analysts cannot agree on the likely amount Agbank will raise is two-fold.

Firstly, it is considered the weakest of China's "big four" banks, because its main customer base is within China's poorer rural communities.

The second factor is the continuing uncertainly in global financial markets.

"Generally, the biggest concern in Agbank is its assets quality," said analyst Hu Yuanchuan of China's Industrial Securities.

Agbank, which has more than 24,000 branches and 350 million customers, has yet to set a date for its flotation.

China's other two "big four" lenders are Bank of China and China Construction Bank.

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