The China Insurance Regulatory Commission is seeking more information from Ping An Insurance after reviewing HSBC’s planned sale of its $9.4bn stake in China’s No.2 insurer.
HSBC planned to sell its 15% stake to Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group.
The CIRC has carried out a first stage review of Ping An’s request the stake transfer and has requested the company provide further detail. In a statement the commission didn’t specify what additional materials it needs to carry out the review.
There has been speculation that the regulator would likely veto the deal due to concerns over funding.
The deal requires approval because HSBC owned more than the 5% threshold above which prospective owners need CIRC permission. CP Group planned to buy the stake from HSBC in two stages: an initial outright purchase of 20 percent of the shares on offer, and then a CDB-funded second offer for the remaining 80 percent.
Under the terms of the current agreement the CIRC must approve the deal by February 1, although the parties could extend the deadline.
A Ping An spokesperson said the deal is "undergoing the normal approval procedures."
CP declined to comment.
At the request of Hong Kong’s stock exchange HSBC released a statement saying the deal remains on track and it was not aware of any new information related to it that needed to be disclosed and the information in its December 5 announcement of the two-part transaction remains accurate.
CP has already purchased a 3.24% stake in the insurer from HSBC in December 2012. The final part of the deal was scheduled to go through this week.
China Development Bank (CDB), a major government-run lender, was to give CP the financial backing necessary to buy the rest of the stake from HSBC. When the deal was announced by HSBC in December 2012 the UK based bank said a guarantee from CDB formed the principal support for the 15.57% stake purchase.
There has bee further speculation that CDB was reconsidering its decision to provide a financial guarantee for the transaction.
The Chinese bank declined to comment.
China’s insurance regulations currently forbid investors from using external financing to buy insurance stakes although regulators have discretion on whether to enforce the rules.
The failure of the deal would be a blow to HSBC, set to be the largest ever inbound acquisition deal in China.
CP spokeswoman Suthana Hongthong said the deal was still on. "Everything is still in process," she said without giving details.