MINSK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Belarus is in talks to sell a controlling stake in its No. 4 bank Belinvestbank to a top Chinese lender, the Belarus central bank said on Monday, in a deal that economists estimate could be worth $500 million.
"We are working on this question with the largest Chinese bank," Central Bank Chairman Pyotr Prokopovich told journalists in Minsk.
"So far the talks are just provisional. Next week representatives of this bank will visit."
Prokopovich would not disclose the price, but Moscow-based investment bank Renaissance Capital earlier estimated that Minsk could earn up to $500 million by selling Belinvestbank.
Prokopovich also refused to name the Chinese bank. China's largest bank is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (1398.HK) (601398.SS).
The sale would follow recommendations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the government should cede control of state banks.
The IMF has issued a $3.5 billion standby loan to the impoverished former Soviet country in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Prokopovich said in October that Belinvestbank was in talks with a Western lender after negotiations with Germany's Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) led nowhere.
Belarus has been boosting economic ties with China and earlier this year signed a series of projects that could potentially bring to Minsk $10 billion of Chinese investment -- more than one-fifth of Belarus's gross domestic product (GDP) [ID:nLDE62O2BI].
In November, Minsk, received 6 billion yuan ($902.6 from China under a 20 billion yuan three-year currency swap deal agreed in March 2009 [ID:nLDE6AO1EA]. ($1=6.647 Yuan) (Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Hans Peters)