Ping An shares fall to 2-month low on report of HSBC $9 billion exit


Shares of Ping An Insurance <2318.HK> fell to near a two-month low on Monday after a media report said HSBC Holdings PLC is planning to sell its $9.3 billion stake in China's No.2 insurer.

HSBC has been exiting non-core businesses since Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver laid out his plans in May 2011 to boost profitability. Europe's biggest bank has since sold or wound down various businesses including its non-life insurance operations.

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HSBC owns 15.6 percent of Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd, having bought its stake before the insurer went public in 2004. The bank's stake is worth about HK$71.8 billion ($9.3 billion), Thomson Reuters data shows.

Possible buyers include Thai tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont, who owns the unlisted CP group, according to the Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal, which reported on the possible stake sale.

As of 0228 GMT, Ping An shares were down 3 percent to HK$57.80, their lowest level since September 27. By comparison, the benchmark Hang Seng Index was up 0.46 percent.

HSBC is Ping An's largest shareholder and alone accounts for about 39 percent of the insurer's total Hong Kong-listed shares, or about 1.23 billion shares, according to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

HSBC said it had no comments, while a Ping An spokesman said the company had not received word of any sale. CP could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this year, HSBC sold its general insurance business to French insurer AXA and Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd and is close to selling its 18 percent stake in Vietnam's Bao Viet Holdings .

HSBC also owns 19.9 percent of Bank of Communications (BoCom) <3328.HK>, China's No.5 lender. The BoCom stake is worth about HK$79 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"This makes sense for HSBC because it's been disposing of so many of its non-core businesses," said Ivan Li, an analyst at Maybank-Kim Eng in Hong Kong. "The question that everyone has will be on HSBC's stake in Bank of Communications <601328.SS>." ($1 = 7.7518 Hong Kong dollars) (Reporting by Kelvin Soh and Denny Thomas; Editing by Richard Pullin and Ryan Woo)