Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Selling Out On China?

On Tuesday morning, Bank of America (BAC) announced the sale of 13.5 billion shares of China Construction Bank, representing a 5.8% stake in the company. Bank of America (BAC) raised around $7.3 billion through this sale, which was required in order to meet capital requirements following on from last week's stress tests.

So what's the big deal you might ask? Well, where do I start? There are a number of interesting observations that you could make.

* The shares were sold at around a 14% discount to China Construction Bank's previous closing price of HK$4.91.
* Back in January, Bank of America (BAC) had already sold around $2.8 billion of China Construction Bank shares.
* There is no shortage of buyers for the shares, with a private fund headed by Fang Fenglei, picking up the lion's share.
* Rather than plummeting, the stock price actually rose slightly following the huge sale.

In fact, this year overseas financial companies have sold over $15 billion of Chinese financial stocks as they are forced to try to repair their shattered balance sheets. I see this in a lot of ways as counter-productive. They are being forced to sell valuable assets that will inevitably see tremendous growth in coming years and yet will have to hold onto a lot of the toxic assets that got them into the mess in the first place. Bank of America (BAC) was obviously very desperate to sell their shares, as they had to offload them far below market price, and I'm sure if they weren't locked into holding the remainder of their stake (around 11% of CCB) until 2011, that they would've attempted to offload much of that too.

It would appear that there is good liquidity among Chinese financial stocks, with this huge glut of shares being absorbed relatively quietly by a small group of investors. Where US financial institutions are resorting to desperate measures to try to raise capital, Asian bargain hunters are snapping up golden opportunities at great prices. It appears to be yet another example of the Chinese propping up the failing US economy. The Chinese are already the largest holders of US government debt, and now have the opportunity to use their vast cash reserves to buy up Chinese assets held by overseas institutions, as well as continuing to fuel their insatiable appetite for commodities.

I am confident that China will continue its amazing growth story, despite the recent global economic downturn. The reduced US demand for Chinese goods will only cause temporary harm to the Chinese economy as manufacturers will be forced to focus more on intrinsic growth within China rather than being dependent on foreign economies. This will fuel the next stage in the growth of China, resulting in a stronger, more independent, economic superpower which no longer needs to rely on the economies of the West. It is a little ironic that overseas institutions are being forced to sell out of such great Chinese opportunities as they are forced to take their cash off the table now.

Disclosure: At the time of writing the author did not hold shares in Bank of America (BAC).

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