Exclusive: China tightens lending rules for trusts, corporate bill market

Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:36am EDT
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By Hongmei Zhao and Hongwei Li and Koh Gui Qing

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China is readying twin initiatives to curb opaque financing practices that threaten the stability of the country's $864 billion investment trust industry and booming corporate paper market, sources with direct knowledge of the plans told Reuters.

The moves, coming separately from the People's Bank of China (PBOC) and the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), form part a campaign to clean up China's financial system as it opens up domestic capital markets to diversify funding options for cash-strapped firms in the world's No 2 economy.

Two sources close to the CBRC said China's big four managers of bad loans - so-called asset management companies (AMCs) - will be banned from lending directly to investment trust companies under the pretext of acquiring bad debt.

Meanwhile, continuing a clampdown on the corporate bill that began in 2011, the PBOC will, from next year, stop bankers acceptances and similar products from being used to camouflage off-balance-sheet lending to firms, sources with direct knowledge of the situation said.

Trade in commercial bills began to cause concerns in Beijing when the economy showed signs of overheating on a flood of cheap credit in 2010 and issuance of such notes exploded.

Neither the CBRC nor the PBOC provided comment on their plans when contacted by Reuters.

The initiatives could provide reassurance that Beijing is serious about rooting out hidden risks that investors fear lurk in a financial system dominated by state-controlled banks and government-backed business.

For years, China has shuffled bad debt that was run up by big state firms between state banks, other state companies and the government in labyrinthine deals that hid the cost of bad banking, and shielded un-viable state enterprises from bankruptcies.   Continued...