LAST_UPDATETue, 19 Jun 2018 10am

China Vanke, Center Of Power Struggle, Says No. 2 Shareholder Has A Plan

Property developer China Vanke (000002.SZ) (2202.HK), embroiled in a high-profile corporate power tussle for over a year, said on Thursday its No. 2 shareholder China Resources Group is considering a major plan related to its holding.

The country's second-largest developer said in a statement it had been informed that China Resources and a unit were looking at an option but were still finalizing the details.

State-owned China Resources said it had nothing further to add at this point.

Tencent Finance, a local news website, reported China Resources would sell its 15.2 percent stake to Shenzhen Metro Group, a Vanke ally and that an announcement could come later on Thursday. Reuters was not able to verify the report.

It was not immediately clear if such a move would help Vanke fend off its biggest shareholder, financial conglomerate Baoneng which has built up a 25 percent holding and has sought to oust management. It would also fall short of a previous Vanke plan to make Shenzhen Metro its No. 1 shareholder through an asset swap worth $6.9 billion.

Vanke last month called off the deal with Shenzhen Metro saying it could not get major shareholders to agree.

China Resources previously opposed the Shenzhen Metro deal but has said it was not working with Baoneng to replace Vanke's board.

David Hong, head of research at CRIC Hong Kong, said he thought it was possible that China Resources could sell its shares to a Shenzhen state-owned company.

"The shares were bought by its former chairman and may not fit into China Resources' current portfolio," he said.

Other analysts said there were many theories circulating about what China Resources could be planning.

Vanke's shares were suspended from trade in both Hong Kong and Shenzhen earlier in the day.

While Baoneng has sought to oust management, it has said little about its intentions. Recent proposed ownership limits at Chinese insurance companies could, however, effectively stop it from using its insurance unit to further fund the acquisition of more shares in Vanke.

Baoneng's shares in Vanke will come out of a lock-up period that prevents them from being sold on Jan. 17, according to a Citi report.

Complicating matters, China Evergrande Group (3333.HK), the country's biggest homebuilder, quickly built up a stake of 14.07 percent in the latter half of last year but has since said it is not interested in seeking control of its rival.

Vanke's shares in Hong Kong lost as much as 30 percent in the first half of last year, hit by uncertainty over the power struggle and share dilution that would have occurred under the deal with Shenzhen Metro. But they recovered most of that ground in the second half when Evergrande quickly built up its stake.