CITIC to buy Credit Agricole's CLSA unit

Updated: 2012-07-24 03:23

(China Daily)

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CITIC Securities Co, China's largest brokerage by market value, agreed to buy Credit Agricole SA's CLSA unit for $1.25 billion, joining banks across Asia that are acquiring the assets of troubled European financial companies.

The Chinese company completed its purchase of a 19.9 percent stake in the brokerage for $310.3 million, the companies said in a statement on Friday. CITIC Securities will buy the remaining 80.1 percent for $941.7 million, subject to conditions including regulatory approval, the companies said.

Buying CLSA will give CITIC Securities the overseas research component lacking in its operations as Chairman Wang Dongming seeks to expand overseas. His challenge will be to marry CLSA's independent-focused culture with that of the State-controlled brokerage, JPMorgan Chase & Co analysts said.

"In the long term, this transaction, if successfully executed, could become critical" for CITIC Securities to compete with investment banks at home and abroad, Joseph Leung and Josh Klaczek of JPMorgan wrote in a note on Friday. "The downside risk is execution, particularly given cultural differences."

Banks' retreat

Wang entered exclusive talks with Credit Agricole in March over the French bank's remaining CLSA stake. Credit Agricole shares have plunged 28 percent this year as European banks, including HSBC Holdings PLC and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, sell assets to cope with the region's debt crisis.

The value of assets under management by CITIC Securities is 62 billion yuan ($9.7 billion), the largest in China, according to the company.

"This is a symbol of European banks' retreat," said Christophe Nijdam, an analyst at AlphaValue in Paris who recommends buying Credit Agricole shares. "CLSA was considered a jewel."

CLSA, founded by journalists Gary Coull and James Walker in 1986, has more than 1,500 employees in 20 locations spanning 13 countries, providing equity research, trading, asset management, and advising on stock sales and mergers, according to its website. The Hong Kong-based company's research business covers about 1,000 companies listed in 12 Asia-Pacific markets and includes its New York-based Calyon Securities unit in the United States, where it covers more than 200 stocks, the website shows.

The deal is the latest move by Chinese companies to tap the global market by taking advantage of the woes of debt-saddled European economies.

Credit Agricole, one of the world's largest financial institutions, reported in May a 75 percent drop in first-quarter net profit, as a result of its exposure to the Greek debt crisis.

Bloomberg — AP