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China's top appliance maker Gree eyes banking business

Employees make air-conditioners along a production line at a factory of Gree Electric Appliances in Hefei, Anhui province August 6, 2011. RE
Employees make air-conditioners along a production line at a factory of Gree Electric Appliances in Hefei, Anhui province August 6, 2011. RE

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A unit of China's Gree Electric Appliances Inc of Zhuhai <000651.SZ> plans to set up a private bank, the second Chinese home appliance player to eye a move into the financial industry after Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd <002024.SZ> announced its own plans last month.

Gree, with a market value of $14 billion, said in a filing to the Shenzhen stock exchange late on Wednesday that Zhuhai Gree Group Finance Co Ltd is in initial talks with Zhuhai Hengqin Village Bank, but said no agreement has been reached.

Gree, the country's top appliance maker by sales, gave no further details.

Suning, which is seen by some as China's answer to Best Buy Co Inc , said in August it had submitted an initial application to authorities to establish a private bank on the mainland, more than a week after Beijing unveiled plans to establish more financial institutions to support cash-starved smaller firms.

The government will support the establishment of more village banks and credit companies in areas where smaller firms are concentrated, according to the guidelines.

The State Administration Industry & Commerce said earlier this month that the name "Suning Bank" was approved for use, fueling hopes that Suning might be the first private company to run a retail bank.

Gree shares were down 4.3 percent on Thursday afternoon, while Suning shares were up 0.8 percent in Shenzhen.

(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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