American Express Co. is reportedly hoping to raise capital by selling shares in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Amex stands to gain about $500 million on a sale of its whole stake in the Beijing financial institution but cannot begin to do so until April, when a restriction on selling up to half the shares expires, according to a Monday report in the New York Post.

The New York credit card company, along with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Allianz SE, shared in a 10% stake in ICBC, bought in 2006 for a total of $3.78 billion.

Amex initially invested about $200 million to buy about 600 million shares, according to the Post, which cited sources who had spoken to Amex officials and a banker familiar with the situation. In an October regulatory filing, Amex said it "is restricted from selling 50% of this investment until April 2009 and the remaining 50% until October 2009."

The company did not return phone calls for comment by press time Tuesday. It also has a partnership with ICBC (and two other Chinese financial institutions) to issue dual currency credit cards in China.

Amex, which converted to a bank holding company last year as part of its response to funding needs, said last month that it expects to get about $3.4 billion through the Treasury Department's Capital Purchase Program.

Bank of America Corp. recently sold 5.6 billion of its shares in China Construction Bank. And Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and UBS AG have also unloaded shares in Chinese institutions.

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