China's CITIC says may not invest in Bear Stearns

( Reuter )- CITIC Securities said on Saturday it might not proceed with a deal to invest about $1 billion in Bear Stearns because of the U.S. investment bank's financial crisis.

China's largest listed brokerage said it would "conduct an overall evaluation" of the deal after Bear, saying its liquidity position had worsened, obtained on Friday an emergency funding arrangement with the U.S. Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase.

Any cancellation of the CITIC deal would be another blow to Bear, the smallest of the major New York investment banks and the most reliant on slumping U.S. mortgage markets. It has been counting on the investment to boost its capital.

"Our company has noticed the recent financing arrangement between Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and other financial institutions, and we have also considered factors including the sharp fall in Bear Stearns' share price," CITIC Securities said.

"We cannot guarantee reaching a final agreement in the future," it said in a statement emailed to Reuters in response to media enquiries.

Last October, Bear and CITIC Securities announced plans to invest about $1 billion in each other and form a joint banking venture in Asia. CITIC Securities was to obtain a stake of about 6 percent in Bear, with the U.S. bank getting about 2 percent of the Chinese firm.

But since then, Bear's share price has plunged 74 percent. CITIC Securities' shares have tumbled 45 percent as China's stock market has slumped, hurting the Chinese firm's earnings outlook.

"We acknowledge that the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S. capital markets is continuing, so we will closely monitor the impact of the crisis on the investment deal," CITIC Securities said.

"At present, the two parties are still negotiating major terms of the deal and we have not completed due diligence on Bear Stearns. We haven't signed any formal agreement and we haven't paid any money."

CITIC Securities did not say when its evaluation of the Bear deal might be completed.

Global markets have been speculating that cash-rich Chinese financial institutions might take advantage of the U.S. subprime crisis to buy big stakes in foreign companies at cheap prices. But the uncertainty over the Bear deal suggests Chinese firms may be wary.

In early March, CITIC Group chairman Kong Dan said the Chinese brokerage was renegotiating the Bear deal in light of Bear's sliding share price, and might take a bigger stake than originally envisaged.

A revised deal with an investment of $1 billion could have given CITIC Securities up to 9.9 percent, making it the largest single shareholder in Bear.

But on Wednesday, Kong suggested that CITIC Securities might now take the originally planned stake of 6 percent while paying less than $1 billion.

On Saturday, Bank of China 601389.SS said it was interested in acquisitions in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, but was unlikely to look for bargains among Western financial institutions hit by the subprime crisis.

"We certainly will not buy into institutions like Bear Stearns," said Xiao Gang, chairman of China's fourth largest bank by assets.

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