China’s largest bank lent Rmb640bn to local governments in the post-crisis credit boom, but insists that these loans do not pose a danger to the country’s banking system.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Jiang Jianqing, chairman of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s biggest bank by market capitalisation, acknowledged that unbridled lending to development companies controlled by local governments did carry some risk for the economy.
The development companies now account for 10 per cent of ICBC’s loan book. In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, Chinese banks roughly doubled their lending activity.
“It is important that people pay attention to this problem and we should be alert to the risks,” Mr Jiang said. “[But] I don’t believe this problem poses a systemic risk to the Chinese banking system.”
He added: “It is my belief that within three years we will have solved this problem smoothly. Within three years we want lending to fully return to normal [pre-crisis levels].”
Local governments in China are not allowed to sell bonds or borrow directly from banks so in recent years they have set up thousands of “local government finance platforms” – as the development companies are known – to raise money for infrastructure and real estate projects. When Beijing launched a Rmb4,000bn stimulus package to combat the effects of the 2008 crisis, it initially turned a blind eye to this practice.
This “lend first, clean up the mess later” policy raised concerns among many analysts and bankers that it could lead to a spike in the number non- performing loans. The China Banking Regulatory Commission also appeared to have second thoughts.
In April the CBRC’s chairman, Liu Mingkang, cited the development companies as a major concern and ordered state banks to submit “comprehensive” reviews of their loan books.
Regulators also drafted tough capital requirements. These included higher capital adequacy ratios and an increase in general provisions to 2.5 per cent of total outstanding loans, up from 1 per cent previously.
But Mr Jiang argued that the non-performing loan ratio on lending to local government finance platforms was less than 0.3 per cent, and that he expected 20 per cent of the Rmb640bn his bank had lent to them to be repaid by the end of this year. “In the last few decades many prophets from abroad have predicted a crisis in the Chinese economy but it hasn’t happened,” Mr Jiang said. “Facts and reality have proved them wrong every time but they continue to love to make predictions.”
Separately, Xiang Junbo, chairman of Agricultural Bank of China, echoed Mr Jiang’s assessment.
2011-03-31 11:36 编辑：icetonado