atans1

Temasek and China’s Bad Loans

In China, Economy, Temasek on 24/01/2010 at 5:16 am

Temasek has big holdings in two Chinese banks: 4% of Bank of China and 6% of China Construction Bank.

So this is worrying: “For the banks themselves, the lending splurge threatens to undo significant progress made in recent years in reducing ratios of problem loans to total lending.” Part of of an IHT article.

It goes on:

“A decade ago, Chinese banks staggered under a load of bad debt, reported by the Bank of China at nearly 40 percent of their total lending in 1999. In 2000, the nonperforming loan rate for the major commercial banks in China stood at 29 percent, according to official statistics and in the view of many Western analysts who questioned Chinese accounting standards, it was probably far higher. Nonperforming loans are defined as those on which repayments are more than three months in arrears.

‘The government vowed to bring the rate down to 15 percent by 2005, and by the end of 2007 it had dropped below 7 percent. One factor behind this reduction was the need for Chinese banks to attract investment from private and foreign sources.

‘This steep decline to single-digit levels would seem to tell a heroic tale of a banking system that solved its problems, but not all analysts take it at face value. Skeptics say the cleanup was largely based on sleight of hand, involving specially established asset management companies, speculative bonds and fuzzy government guarantees that together did little more than kick the problem down the road.

‘Even the least cynical analysts acknowledged that lower ratios partially reflected the dilution of bad loans in a vast sea of new lending, some of which would go bad but was still too recent to register as nonperforming.

‘Yet such doubts and qualifications notwithstanding, few deny that some degree of bad debt reduction was genuine and that overall loan quality among Chinese banks has improved from the worst of times.

‘Now, however, new concerns are emerging over the state of Chinese banks and their balance sheets. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, spoke publicly of such worries in early January, and hinted at a lending slowdown.

‘Large credit flows, “will not only go against the objective of economic structural adjustment, but will also pose bank lending quality risks,” Mr. Zhou said in a magazine interview.”

Note that the Bank of China said on Friday that it plans to sell up to Rmb40bn ($5.86bn) of convertible bonds toto boost its capital base and allow it to meet stricter regulatory and capital requirements following.In 2009,  Chinese banks lent a total of Rmb9,600bn, more than double the volume of new loans made in 2008.

Note also that the announcement came just after the authorities acted to check  surging loan growth by ordering some banks, including Bank of China, to temporarily suspend the granting of new loans.

As you will be aware, Beijing is worried about rising inflationary pressures and the  quality of new loans, the by-products of its expansionist economic policies.

Update 25/1/09

BOC  told analysts it may raise additional capital by selling new shares in Hong Kong, in addition to the U$5.9bn Chinese convertible bond sale.
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