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Exclusive-Credit Suisse puts up China brokerage venture for sale -sources

Pedestrian walks past a logo of Credit Suisse outside its office building in Hong Kong

By Selena Li and Engen Tham

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Credit Suisse and a joint venture partner are seeking buyers for their China securities brokerage business due to the Swiss bank's takeover by rival UBS, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Citigroup had at one point shown interest in acquiring Credit Suisse Securities China (CSS), they added.

Citi, whose CEO Jane Fraser was in China this week, is setting up a securities brokerage in China. It had hoped to fast-track development via an acquisition but decided to stick to its original plan to grow the business organically, said one of the people.

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According to Chinese securities regulations, one entity cannot hold two licenses for majority-owned brokerages. UBS has a 67% stake in a profitable securities venture with Beijing State-owned Asset Management.

Credit Suisse owns 51% of loss-making CSS and struck a deal to buy out its partner Founder Securities last year. That transaction has yet to receive Chinese regulatory approval.

The sources asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

UBS and a spokesperson representing both Credit Suisse and CSS declined to comment. Citi declined to comment.

Founder Securities and the China Securities Regulatory Commission did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

CSS was established in 2008 in Beijing with Credit Suisse initially owning 33.3% before raising its stake to 51% in 2020. In addition to brokering, it is licenced to conduct underwriting, sponsoring, proprietary trading and to act as an investment consultancy.

It booked a net loss of 254 million yuan ($36 million) in 2022 and had headcount of 234 at the end of last year, according to its annual report. The potential deal value for the business could not be immediately learned.

UBS plans to announce the finalising of its tie-up with Credit Suisse as soon as next Monday.

The new group will have much work to do to consolidate the banks' operations in China where both have investment banking, wealth, and fund management businesses.

Sources have also said that Credit Suisse has scrapped plans to set up a locally incorporated bank in China due to a potential regulatory conflict arising from the acquisition by UBS.

(Reporting by Selena Li in Hong Kong and Engen Tham in Shanghai; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Edwina Gibbs)