BUENOS AIRES/BEIJING Argentina has given approval for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (1398.HK) to take control of the local operations of South Africa's Standard Bank (SBKJ.J) following a $600 million deal last year, the Chinese lender said on Sunday.
ICBC, the world's biggest bank by market value, will take 80 percent of commercial lender Standard Bank Argentina and its two affiliates, asset manager Standard Investments and commercial service provider Inversora Diagnol.
Standard Bank will have its stake in all three firms reduced to 20 percent. Reuters reported on the takeover approval on Saturday, citing an official source who declined to be named.
This makes ICBC the first Chinese lender to enter Latin America's third-largest economy, where President Cristina Fernandex ordered banks in July to lend nearly 15 billion pesos ($3.1 billion) by year-end to finance investment in production.
The Argentine investment by ICBC is a response to Beijing's call for its state-owned enterprises to expand overseas. The bank's overseas assets rose 21.5 percent to $154.5 billion at the end of September, and had a non-performing loan ratio of 0.45 percent, it said in a statement.
By comparison, ICBC's overall NPL ratio was 0.87 percent at the end of September.
(Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi and Kelvin Soh; Editing by Michael Perry)