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Agricultural Bank of China is considering a bid for Hong Kong-listed Wing Hang Bank as China's fourth-biggest lender eyes its first acquisition outside its home market, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Family-run Wing Hang Bank became a takeover target after its controlling shareholders received preliminary offers from independent third parties last month, which it did not name.
Hong Kong's Fung family and BNY International Financing jointly own about 45 percent of the bank, which has a market value of $4.5 billion.
(Read more: China banks may need 'tape' to hold together)
AgBank has held discussions about a possible offer, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, declining to be identified as the talks were confidential.
State-run AgBank, which raised $22.1 billion in a dual Shanghai and Hong Kong IPO in 2010, has been keen to expand in Hong Kong in order to catch up with its bigger rivals, the people added.
Nomura Holdings is advising Wing Hang Bank, they said.
(Read more: Greece and Spain to carve the way for Chinese banks?)
"To date, Agricultural Bank of China does not have overseas acquisition plans," a bank spokeswoman told Reuters.
Wing Hang declined to comment beyond its Oct. 16 statement which said its substantial shareholders were in dialogue with certain independent third parties, but no deal was reached.