Qatar Fund Is Near Investment in China's Top Online Lender

(Bloomberg) -- The Qatar Investment Authority is in advanced talks about an investment in Lufax, China’s biggest online lender, as the sovereign wealth fund seeks to tap into the world’s second-largest economy, people familiar with the matter said.

QIA has been negotiating the potential purchase of a minority stake in Lufax, which is an arm of China’s Ping An Insurance (Group) Co., according to the people. It could spend about $500 million to $1 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

A deal could be announced as soon as the next few weeks, the people said. Shanghai-based Lufax, which became profitable for the first time last year, completed a fundraising in 2016 that valued it at $18.5 billion.

Ping An, China’s largest insurer by market value, has been spending on technology to make its insurance, banking and asset management businesses more competitive. The firm has started selling everything from online banking platforms to facial recognition systems to other financial firms in China and around the world. It’s ultimately seeking to generate half of its earnings from technology, executives have said.

The potential QIA investment in Lufax could still be delayed or fall apart, the people said. Representatives for QIA, Ping An and Lufax, whose official name is Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange Co., declined to comment.

QIA was created in 2005 to handle Qatar’s windfall from its liquefied natural gas sales. The firm has investments as varied as British supermarket J Sainsbury Plc, Harrods Department Store, European energy companies and real estate.

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