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Block deals soak up 4% of ICICI Bank shares

Mumbai, Dec. 1: The ICICI Bank stock was the show-stopper today amid a flurry of block deals that saw shares amounting to over 4 per cent of its equity change hands.

In all, 2.63 crore shares worth a whopping Rs 690 crore went to new owners in four high-value transactions. The deals on BSE — for 15 lakh, 1.99 crore, 40 lakh and 9.98 lakh shares — add up to 4.28 per cent of the bank’s equity.

Market observers were yet to zero in on the sellers and buyers, but speculation veered around Bajaj Auto. The company, a shareholder of ICICI Bank, denied this. Operators also talked about Life Insurance Corporation, one of the nimblest stock market investor in recent times, as a possible seller. The bank’s shares gained Rs 5.35 to close the day at Rs 255.25.

Rumours abound that buyers could be Singapore-based funds, with the Government of Singapore emerging as the likely buyer. However, this could not be confirmed.

The markets are still confused on the seller. The deal was arranged by ICICI Securities, the wholly-owned subsidiary of ICICI Bank.

Names of leading FIIs like Lombard and Warburg Pincus did the rounds too. Bajaj Auto has been a long term investor and even when the bank stock gained appreciably, the company retained its investment in the bank.

The Pune-based two and three-wheeler major has been liquidating most of its equity investments made by way of stock market operations and through mutual funds. But, ICICI Bank alongwith Bajaj Tempo, a Firodia based multi-utility maker, appears to be a core holding of the company.

ICICI bank, on its part has also been acknowledging Bajaj Auto's status as an important stake holder of the company. Senior officials from ICICI Bank have in the past made several presentations before the Bajaj Auto board.

Bajaj Auto has been accumulating the shares at very low levels when ICICI was a standalone development financial institution.

Market players say the company could be holding around 3 per cent. The investment has risen in the past few months.

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