Andile said their relationship dates back to January last year when his Blue Crane Capital partnered with Chen, to form a company called Blue Tree International, noting that the partnership was formed with the purpose of acquiring a majority shareholding stake in Mercantile Bank, which was up for sale at the time. He, however, pulled out of the bid after careful consideration.
Ramaphosa added that if the bid for Mercantile Bank had been successful, the partnership would have resulted in him owning 13% of the bank, with Chen owning the majority 87%.
Chen, who leads a Hong Kong-listed company Sino Energy International, among other business enterprises, "was able to validate his financial muscle through the strength of his balance sheet – about R2bn was required to acquire Mercantile Bank".
"The introduction to Chen came through the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation via our China office. We were able to verify Jianbao’s legitimacy as a businessman and to ascertain his financial capability.
"Furthermore, the pre-bid screening by Deutsche Bank, who were the mandated advisors to Mercantile Bank, did not raise any suspicious detail about Chen and his Huarong Energy Africa business, nor did law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, which was engaged to act on our behalf in the bid process pick up any concerns.”