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Stake in Tencent-backed WeBank to be auctioned after court ruling

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BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A stake of Chinese private lender WeBank, which counts gaming and social media firm Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> as a major shareholder, is being auctioned with a price tag of 441 million yuan ($63.63 million) following a court ruling.

Shenzhen Brightoil Petroleum Group Co, WeBank’s fourth-largest shareholder, has been forced to sell 12.6 million WeBank shares at 35 yuan each, showed an auction announcement on Taobao, the flagship e-commerce site run by Tencent rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd <BABA.N>.

In total, Brightoil owns 120 million WeBank shares, or a 2.857 percent stake, showed a disclosure accompanying the announcement.

The price implies a total valuation of 147 billion yuan (16.33 billion pounds) for online-only WeBank, which has kept its valuation confidential, showed Reuters’ calculations based on the disclosure.

WeBank, in a text to Reuters, said shareholding transfers of a private bank must follow certain regulations, and that the bank is seeking information from relevant parties.

The stake was put up for auction by the Shanghai No.1 Intermediary People’s Court after Brightoil failed to repay a loan to Ping An Bank Co Ltd <000001.SZ>, the disclosure showed.

Brightoil declined to provide immediate comment. Tencent did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Founded in Dec 2014, WeBank was China’s first privately held bank, offering deposit, lending and wealth management products to individuals and enterprises. Apart from Tencent, its main shareholders are all enterprises based in Shenzhen, according to corporate registry records.

WeBank targeted a number of non-Chinese investors in a 2016 funding round at a valuation of $5.5 billion, according to Wall Street Journal reports at the time. It later closed the round without foreign capital due to regulatory restrictions, the newspaper reported.

The bank earned 1.45 billion yuan in profit for the year of 2017, at the end of which its assets totalled 81.7 billion yuan, the disclosure showed.

The auction will officially start on Dec. 3.

(Reporting by Shu Zhang in BEIJING and Kane Wu in HONGKONG; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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