Purpose - Investigate the causes and consequences of foreign financial institutions' divestments in China's banking sector which is an example of cross-border transactions by institutional investors. Methodology - Use a sample of 26 foreign financial institutions' strategic investments in Chinese banks. Ten of those investments are divested after the global financial crisis. We investigate determinants of the divestment, business cooperation after the divestment, and Chinese banks' stock price reactions to the divestment announcement. Findings - The poor performance of foreign financial institutions, which is attributable to the global financial crisis, and the institutions' regulated low equity ownership are important causes of divestment (or whole divestment). In contrast, Chinese banks' poor performance does not cause foreign divestments. Foreign financial institutions that fully divest their equity stakes usually terminate their cooperative business, which was required by the strategic investment agreement. The Bank of China and the China Construction Bank, which experienced large H-share divestments, experienced large economic declines in A-share values. Social implications - Foreign financial institutions' strategic investments created substantial shareholder value before the divestment. Banking sector developments that rely on foreign investments are vulnerable to economic downturns in developed countries. Originality/value of paper - To the best of our knowledge, this is the first trial to analyze the impact of divestments on divested bank performance.