Chinese banks eye Singapore government stake in StanChart

Mumbai: Three of China''s state-run banks are eyeing major stakes in British banking giant Standard Chartered, the largest foreign bank in India, although the UK bank has termed media reports as speculative.

The deal, if it goes through, could give the Chinese government a significant presence in the Indian banking space, where StanChart has the biggest branch network among overseas banks.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China (BoC) and China Construction Bank (CCB) are interested in picking a 17 per cent stake in the UK bank which is currently held by Singapore government''s investment arm Temasek, The Times and the Financial Times said in separate reports.

The reports said the three Chinese banks have touched base with Temasek, the largest shareholder in the British bank that acquired an 11.5 per cent stake in 2006 and later increased it to over 17 per cent.

StanChart has 81 branches in India with licences to open two more branches. Besides, it reached an agreement in September to acquire for $860 million US-based American Express Bank, which also has seven branches in India.

Together, these 90 branches account for the bulk of total 258 branches of 29 foreign banks in India as of September 2006.