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China Forex Arm Buys Stakes in 3 Australia Banks: FT

A Hong Kong-based unit of China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) has bought small stakes in three Australian banks, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia aid Hong Kong-registered SAFE Investment had bought stakes of less than one percent in each, while sources at National Australia Bank said an entity of the same name had bought a stake of about one-third of 1 percent, the newspaper said.

SAFE Investment declined to comment to Reuters.

A banker familiar with SAFE Investment said the firm was also eyeing similar investments in London-listed firms, the FT said.

The Financial Times said SAFE denied knowledge of the Australian Bank investments or any investments in London-listed companies and asked the newspaper not to publish any details.

The investments in the Australian banks were made over the past two months and came to about A$200 million (US$175.7 million) each, the newspaper said -- tiny in the context of China's US$1.43 trillion in foreign reserves, which are managed by SAFE.

China last year formed a $200 billion sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp, which has bought stakes in U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group and Wall Street's Morgan Stanley .

Globally, some government officials and others have expressed concern about the rising prominence of sovereign wealth funds, which have been buying stakes in high-profile Western assets, with distressed financial services firms the favourites targets in recent months.

The lack of clarity around the SAFE Investment Co investments in Australia raised questions about the transparency of Chinese sovereign investments overseas, the FT said.