The Postal Savings Bank of China (PSBC) — the country’s largest unlisted commercial lender — has begun the process to file for an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. The IPO, which seeks to raise roughly $8 billion, is likely to take place in September.
If the bank's IPO manages to hit its fund-raising target, it would be the world's largest IPO since September 2014, when the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba debuted at a record $25 billion in New York.
However, given that the bank's planned offering comes amid a global rout in bank shares and a 60 percent drop in share offerings in the Asia-Pacific region — both triggered by the uncertainty over, and in response to, the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union — many have questioned the timing of the IPO.
"There is no doubt it will be a tough sale and Postal Savings Bank will have to price the IPO close to its book value to appeal to investors," Li Bin, a Shanghai-based analyst at Capital Securities Corp., told Bloomberg. "But I believe it can nail it."
PSBC is currently an arm of state-owned China Post Group. The bank, founded in 2007, has 40,000 branches across the country — more than any other bank in the country — and serves nearly half a billion customers. And, at the end of September 2015, its total assets stood at over 6 trillion yuan ($945 billion).
However, in recent months, faced with a rise in bad loans — caused primarily by the economic slowdown in China — the bank has sought other sources of income. In December, it raised $7 billion through a 17 percent stake sale to 10 domestic and foreign investors, including UBS Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
At the time, Lu Jiajin, the bank’s president, called the stake sale "a great example of beneficial cooperation between China and the rest of the world."